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 — Rockall
Stock detail — 6b
Picture of Cod, Atlantic Cod

Sustainability rating five info

Sustainability overview

There is insufficient information available to evaluate the stock in this area. However, landings show steep and significant declines which suggests that the stock may be depleted. A number of areas in the region have been closed to trawling to protect sensitive cold water coral communities.


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: 1 info

Stock Area


Stock information

There is insufficient information available on the stock in this area to evaluate its status, and this has been the case since 2006. However landings show steep and significant declines in recent years which suggests that the stock may be depleted. ICES advises that when the precautionary approach is applied, catches should be further reduced, and be no more than 14 tonnes in each of the years 2018, 2019, and 2020.


Criterion score: 0.5 info

There are no specific management objectives for this stock. Sensitive cold-water coral communities exist on Rockall Bank and these are highly vulnerable to bottom trawling. In order to protect cold water corals a number of areas have been closed since 2007.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.5 info

Cod is a bycatch in fisheries at Rockall. 74% of landings in 2016 are from trawl fisheries. 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. The minimum landing size for cod in EU waters 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
Monkfish, Anglerfish
Pollock, Alaska, Walleye
Sturgeon (Farmed)


ICES Advice 2017, Book 5