Coley, Saithe

Pollachius virens

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Demersal otter trawl
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — Iceland
Stock detail — Va
Certification — Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
Picture of Coley, Saithe

Sustainability rating one info

Sustainability overview

The stock in this area is above target or healthy and fishing mortality at an appropriate level. Avoid eating immature saithe below about 60 cms and during its breeding time, January to March. The best choice for saithe from this area is MSC Certified fish. Look for the blue tick logo on the packaging.


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


Stock information

The spawning-stock biomass (SSB) has been above MSY Btrigger since 1998 and is currently at the time-series maximum. The harvest rate (HR) has declined from 2009 and is presently below HRMSY. Recruitment (R) has been fluctuating and is estimated to be well above the average in every year of the last decade, except 2018. The reference biomass (B4+) has increased since 2015 due to the 2013 year class, which is estimated to be strong.
ICES assesses that fishing pressure on this stock is below HRMSY, HRMGT, Fpa, Flim, and spawning stock size is above MSY Btrigger, MGT Btrigger, Bpa, and Blim.
ICES advises that when the Iceland management plan is applied, catches in the fishing year 2018/2019 should be no more than 79 092 tonnes (60,237 t in 2017/2018; 55,000 t in 2015/16; 58,000 t in 2014/15; 57,000 t in 2013/14; no more than 49,000 t in 2013). The advised catch for 2019 is 31% greater than that advised for 2018. This is due to a large incoming recruitment (fish joining the fishery) that was not predicted last year and the increased stock size estimate.


Criterion score: 0 info

In spring 2013 the Icelandic Government adopted a management plan in accordance with the MSY approach for managing the Icelandic saithe fishery. The plan aims at providing long term maximum sustainable yield and has been evaluated by ICES as precautionary.The fishery was certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) as a sustainable fishery in September 2014.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.25 info

Saithe in this area are caught in directed saithe fisheries as well as in mixed fisheries which target cod. The fishery is predominantly a bottom trawl (87%) one. Fishing is prohibited in areas where high concentrations of juveniles are found. Historically, coley has been one of the most important commercial species in Icelandic waters, with landings of between 30,000t to 130,000t. Discard bans and mandatory Bycatch Reduction Devices (BRDs) mean bycatch and discards are not an issue in this fishery.


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 Advice 2018