Coley, Saithe

Pollachius virens

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Pelagic trawl
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — Faroes
Stock detail — 5b
Picture of Coley, Saithe

Sustainability rating three info

Sustainability overview

The coley stock in the Faroes has full reproductive capacity and is in a healthy state. However, fishing is controlled by effort rather than quota and this has led to fishing above the required level. Fishing pressure is too high and was above F MSY in 2017. Avoid eating immature saithe below about 60 cm and during its breeding time, January to March. To help reduce impact of fishing on fish stocks where fishing effort is too high, the marine environment, and species, choose line-caught fish where available. When buying longline-caught coley ask for fish caught using ‘seabird-friendly’ methods, see Fishing Methods for details. The longline, demersal otter trawl and jig fisheries were certified as sustainable fisheries by the Marine Stewardship Council in June 2013.


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: 0.25 info

Stock Area


Stock information

The spawning-stock biomass (SSB) was below MSY Btrigger from 2012 to 2013 but is estimated to be above MSY Btrigger since 2014. Recruitment has fluctuated without trend since 2000 and it is estimated below historical average in 2018. Fishing mortality (F) has been above FMSY since 1981.
ICES assesses that fishing pressure on the stock is above Fussy and below Fpa and Flim and spawning stock size is above MSY Btrigger.
ICES advises that when the MSY approach is applied, catches in 2019 should be no more than 27 280 t (35 003 t in 2018).


Criterion score: 0.5 info

An effort management system based on the number of fishing days, closed areas and other technical measures was implemented in 1996 and in place until 2018. The new management system will be implemented for cod, haddock and saithe after 1 January 2019. This management system operates with catch quotas for large vessels (trawlers and longliners) whereas it operates with fishing days for the small vessels (mainly longliners). Scientists advise that the catch quota for the small vessels is converted into fishing days. However, ICES is currently not able to quantify the relationship between effort and fishing pressure for this stock.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.25 info

Most coley from the Faroes is caught using bentho-pelagic pair trawls. Bycatch Reduction Devices (BRDs) are mandatory in the pair trawl fishery to reduce bycatch and discards. Coley is also taken in mixed demersal fisheries which include cod and haddock. Fishing is prohibited in areas where small fish exceed 30% of the catch. Trawlers are generally not allowed to fish within 12nm of the coast. Large pair trawlers account for about 98% of the coley catch, with the rest taken by single trawlers, jiggers and other fleets. The minimum landing size for coley in Faroese waters is 45cm. , however, the approximate size at which 50% of females first spawn is around 50cm, so it seems likely that some fish will be taken before they have had a chance to reproduce.


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
Monkfish, Anglerfish
Pollock, Alaska, Walleye
Sturgeon (Farmed)


ICES Advice 2018