Cod, Atlantic Cod

Gadus morhua

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Demersal otter trawl
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — Kattegat
Stock detail — IIIa
Picture of Cod, Atlantic Cod

Sustainability rating three info

Sustainability overview

Although there were some signs of a recovery in 2015, cod population levels for this stock are approaching historically low levels again in 2018. There is no directed cod fishery in Kattegat. Cod is landed mainly by trawlers and is taken as bycatch in the Nephrops fishery. Fishing in the Kattegat over the past 100 years has led to profound changes, with certain species becoming extremely rare or even absent.


Cod belongs to a family of fish known as gadoids, which also includes species such as haddock, pollack, pouting and ling. It is a cold-temperate (boreal) marine, demersal (bottom-dwelling) species. Also found in brackish water. Their depth range is 0 - 600 m, but they are more usually found between 150 and 200 m. They have a common length of 100 cm. Maximum length 200 cm. Maximum published weight 96 kg and a maximum reported age of 25 years. In the North Sea cod mature at 4-5 years at a length of about 50 cm. They spawn in winter and the beginning of spring from February to April. Fecundity ranges from 2.5 million eggs in a 5 kg female to a record of 9 million eggs in a 34 kg female. Sex ratio is nearly 50%, with slight predominance of females. The fish has a protruding upper jaw, a conspicuous barbel on the lower jaw (used to look for food), and a light lateral line, curved above the pectoral fins. Widely distributed in a variety of habitats, from the shoreline down to the continental shelf. Juveniles prefer shallow (less than 10-30 m depth) sublittoral waters with complex habitats, such as seagrass beds, areas with gravel, rocks, or boulder, which provide protection from predators. Adults are usually found in deeper, colder waters. During the day, cod form schools and swim about 30-80 m above the bottom, dispersing at night to feed.

Stock information

Criterion score: 0.5 info

Stock Area


Stock information

For many years up until 2016 ICES advised no landings of cod from the fishery. ICES cannot assess the stock and exploitation status relative to MSY and precautionary approach (PA) reference points because the reference points are undefined. The assessment is indicative of trends only and shows that spawning-stock biomass (SSB) has decreased from historically high levels in 1997. Although there were some signs of a recovery in 2015, the SSB levels are approaching historically low levels again in 2018. The mortality has decreased since 2008 to historically low levels. Recruitment in the last four years has been below average. The stock mainly consists of the 2016 year class, a portion of which originates outside the Kattegat and which might migrate back, making the stock even more susceptible to overexploitation. ICES advises that when the precautionary approach is applied, catches in 2019 should be no more than 494 tonnes ( 772 in 2018; 643 in 2017).


Criterion score: 0.5 info

A management plan has been in place since 2005 to reduce fishing effort and increase cod avoidance. Measures are in place to rebuild the stock such as protected areas on cod spawning grounds, introduced in 2009 by Denmark and Sweden. There is mandatory use of selective panels or grids to reduce discards, currently estimated at 47%.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.5 info

There is no directed cod fishery in Kattegat. Cod is landed mainly by trawlers (87%) and is taken as bycatch in the Nephrops fishery. Since 2004, the use of trawls with codend mesh size below 90mm in the nephrops fishery has only been permitted if the net is fitted with a sorting grid. The use of the Swedish sorting grid has increased in 2009 and 2010 and it is now the main gear used in Swedish Nephrops fisheries. The increased use of this grid has reduced discards of cod in Swedish fisheries in recent years although further development and introduction of selective trawls with low catchability on cod is recommended. The rate of discarding has been high, but stable in the years 2013-2015. However, in 2016 the discard rate decreased (43%). There is potential damage to the seabed by trawling. Trawling is also associated with discarding of unwanted fish, i.e. undersized and/or non-quota and/or over-quota species. Since January 2003 the basic minimum mesh size for towed gears for cod has been 120mm. The minimum landing size for cod in waters in Skagerrak/Kattegat is 30cm. In all other EU waters it is 35cm. The approximate size at which 50% of females first spawn is, however, 60 to 70cm.


Based on method of production, fish type, and consumer rating: only fish rated 2 and below are included as an alternative in the list below. Click on a name to show the sustainable options available.

Basa, Tra, Catfish or Vietnamese River Cobbler
Bass, seabass (Farmed)
Bream, Gilthead (Farmed)
Cod, Atlantic Cod
Cod, Pacific Cod
Coley, Saithe
Hake, Cape
Hake, European
Pollock, Alaska, Walleye
Sturgeon (Farmed)


ICES (2018). ICES Advice on fishing opportunities, catch, and effort Greater North Sea Ecoregion. Published 29 June 2018. (Accessed July 2018);
ICES Advice 2017, Book 6