Coley, Saithe

Pollachius virens

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Demersal otter trawl
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — North Sea, Skagerrak, West of Scotland and Rockall
Stock detail



Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)

Picture of Coley, Saithe

Sustainability rating one info

Sustainability overview

The Norwegian and German fisheries for North Sea coley are assessed as environmentally responsible fisheries by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). Increase the sustainability of the fish you eat from this area by choosing MSC Certified fish. Avoid eating immature saithe below about 60 cms and during its breeding time, January to March.


Coley or saithe belongs to the same family as cod and haddock. Coley usually enters coastal waters in spring and returns to deeper water in winter. They spawn from January to March at about 200m depth along the northern shelf edge and the western edge of the Norwegian deeps. Saithe can grow up to 130cm. It is a long-lived species and can reach ages of more than 25 years. They become sexually mature when 5-10 years old and 60-70cm long.

Stock information

Criterion score: 0 info

Stock Area

North Sea, Skagerrak, West of Scotland and Rockall

Stock information

Recruitment (R) has fluctuated over time and has generally been below the long-term average since 2003. Fishing mortality (F) has been below FMSY since 2013. Spawning-stock biomass (SSB) has fluctuated without trend and has been above MSY Btrigger since 1996. ICES advises that when the MSY approach is applied, catches in 2018 should be no more than 118 460 tonnes (116,605 t in 2017; 68,601t in 2016; 72,854t in 2015; 85,581t in 2014;100,684 t in 2013).


Criterion score: 0 info

Management of North Sea saithe is shared by Norway and the EU and is managed under EU-Norway agreement. The Norwegian fishery for North Sea coley is assessed as an environmentally responsible fishery by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). The German North Sea trawl fishery is also certified as sustainable by the MSC, but it is unlikely that the product will be available to the UK market.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.5 info

Coley in the North Sea are mostly taken in a direct or targeted benthopelagic trawl fishery along the edge of the continental shelf that generates little bycatch and few discards. Discards may occur on vessels which do not have a quota for saithe. During the first half of the year the fishery is directed towards mature fish, while immature fish may dominate catches in the second half of the year. However importance of the fisheries on spawning aggregations in the first quarter of the year has declined. Total catch in 2016 was 78715 t (81945 t in 2015. Observer programmes estimate discards at 13% of the total catch. The minimum landing size for saithe in EU waters is 35cm (32cm in Skagerrak/Kattegat). The approximate size at which 50% of females first spawn is however around 50cm.


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)


ICES Advice 2017,