Cod, Atlantic Cod

Gadus morhua

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Gill or fixed net
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — Kattegat
Stock detail


Picture of Cod, Atlantic Cod

Sustainability rating three info

Sustainability overview

The cod population in the Kattegat is increasing from an historic low. 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: 0.25 info

Stock Area


Stock information

For many years up until 2016 ICES advised no landings of cod from the fishery. Biological reference points are not defined for the stock but trends show that that spawning-stock biomass (SSB) has increased since 2009 from a historical low level. The mortality has been decreasing since 2008. While recruitment in 2013 was at its highest, recruitment in 2016 is the lowest in the time-series. In 2017 ICES advises that when the precautionary approach is applied, catches in 2018 should be no more than 772 tonnes (643 tonnes 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 43%.

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
Coley, Saithe
Hake, Cape
Hake, European
Japanese amberjack, Yellowtail or Seriola
Pollack or Lythe
Pollock, Alaska, Walleye
Pouting or Bib
Sturgeon (Farmed)


The Net Effect. A WDCS Report for Greenpeace. Ross and Isaac (2004); The Price of Fish: A review of cetacean bycatch in fisheries in the north-east Atantic. L Nunny (2011); ICES Advice 2017, Book 6