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 — Irish Sea
Stock detail

VIIa


Picture of Cod, Atlantic Cod

Sustainability rating four info

Sustainability overview

After many years of the stock being depleted in this area, for the first time since the early 1990s, the spawning-stock biomass (SSB) was above MSY Btrigger in 2017. In 2018 ICES assesses that fishing pressure on the stock is below FMSY, Fpa, and Flim, and that the Spawning stock size is below MSY Btrigger and above Bpa and Blim. Atlantic cod is listed by OSPAR as a threatened and declining species in the Greater North Sea and Celtic Sea.

Biology

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

Irish Sea

Stock information

This fishery was first closed in 2003 and until 2017 the scientific advice from ICES has been for no directed fisheries. For the first time since the early 1990s the spawning-stock biomass (SSB) was above MSY Btrigger in 2017.
In 2018 the Spawning stock biomass (SSB) is increasing but remains below MSY Btrigger. Recruitment remains low and was estimated at its lowest in 2016. Fishing pressure (F) has declined from very high levels and has been below FMSY since 2013 and is very low in 2016 and 2017. ICES assesses that fishing pressure on the stock is below FMSY, Fpa, and Flim, and that the Spawning stock size is below MSY Btrigger and above Bpa and Blim. ICES advises that when the MSY approach is applied, catches in 2019 should be no more than 807 tonnes (1073 t in 2018).

Management

Criterion score: 0.75 info

There is a long-term management plan agreed by the EU for this stock in 2008. However it is not considered by ICES to be in accordance with the precautionary approach.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.75 info

The Irish Sea cod fishery has traditionally been carried out by otter trawls targeting spawning cod in spring and juvenile cod in autumn and winter. Cod is also regularly bycaught in trawl fisheries for nephrops, flatfish and rays. 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. Discard rates in 2017 are estimated at 41% of total catch (42% in 2016; 78% in 2015) with Nephrops trawls accounting for 47% of landings and 99% of discards.

Alternatives

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
Haddock
Hake, Cape
Hake, European
Pollock, Alaska, Walleye
Sturgeon (Farmed)
Tilapia
Whiting

References

ICES (2018). ICES Advice on fishing opportunities, catch, and effort Celtic Seas Ecoregion Published 29 June 2018. http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2018/2018/cod.27.7a.pdfICES Advice 2017, Book 5 (Accessed July 2018);
http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2017/2017/cod.27.7a.pdf