Melanogrammus aeglefinus

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Demersal otter trawl
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — Northeast Arctic
Stock detail — 1, 2
Certification — Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
Picture of Haddock

Sustainability rating two info

Sustainability overview

Updated: July 2019.

The stock is in a good state, but fishing mortality is slightly above sustainable levels. There is a management plan for this stock, which generally follows scientific advice. The main concern in this fishery is the high number of young fish about to enter it, following a couple of very good years for recruitment. This could lead to high catches of young, undersize fish if management measures aren’t implemented (e.g. a relatively low Total Allowable Catch and spatial and temporal closures). There is a raft of management measures in place: minimum mesh size of 130mm, bycatch limits for undersize fish, real-time closures where there are high numbers of juveniles of cod, haddock and saithe, sorting grids, seasonal and area closures, move on rules when corals or sponges are caught, and MPAs in which all fishing is prohibited.

There are numerous MSC certifications for cod, haddock and saithe fisheries in this area, some of which are required to take action to reduce endangered golden redfish bycatch.


Haddock is a cold-temperate (boreal) species. It is a migratory fish, found in inshore shallow waters in summer and in deep water in winter. Smaller than cod, it can attain a length of 70-100 cm and can live for more than 20 years. It spawns between February and June, but mostly in March and April. In the North Sea, haddock become sexually mature at an age of 3-4 years and a length of 30-40 cm. Maturity occurs later and at greater lengths in more northern areas of its range.

Stock information

Criterion score: 0.25 info

Stock Area

Northeast Arctic

Stock information

The stock is in a good state, although stock size is declining, and fishing pressure is slightly above sustainable levels.

The spawning-stock biomass (SSB) in 2018 was 216,450 tonnes and has been above MSY Btrigger (80,000t) since 1989. Due to the strong recruitment of age 3 fish in 2007-2009 (2004-2006 year classes) the stock reached an all-time high in 2013 and SSB has since been decreasing. Fishing mortality (F) was 0.378 in 2018. It has increased since reaching a low of 0.130 in 2013 and exceeded FMSY (0.35) in 2017 and 2018.

ICES advises that when the Joint Russian-Norwegian Fisheries Commission management plan is applied, catches in 2020 should be no more than 215 000 tonnes. This is 41% higher than the previous year, because the strong year classes of 2016 and 2017 will recruit to the fishery in 2020. This equates to a 25% increase in TAC from the previous year.


Criterion score: 0.25 info

Management is in line with scientific advice and appears to be keeping catches at sustainable levels.

There is a Harvest Control Rule for this stock, managed by the Joint Russian-Norwegian Fisheries Commission. This limits changes in TAC from one year to the next to 25%, with rules for reducing fishing mortality if the stock falls below a certain limit. From 2016-2018 TACs were set in line with advice, but in 2019 advice was for catches up to 152,000t and the TAC was 172,000t - 13% over. Since 2012, catches have been consistently below TACs. In Norway, quotas are set separately for trawl and other gears.

Discarding is considered negligible in recent years.

Increased surveillance and monitoring at sea and in the air by both Russian and Norwegian authorities, including greater participation by regulation-compliant fishing vessels, and greater cooperation from receiving port authorities, has more or less eradicated Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing in the Barents Sea.

There are numerous Marine Stewardship Council certified cod, haddock and saithe fisheries in this area, so look for these products for the most sustainable options.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.5 info

Haddock is mainly caught as bycatch in the fishery for cod, although there is also a directed haddock fishery. Trawls accounted for 69% of haddock catches in 2018, and longline accounted for 8.7%. Most of the catches are from Russia and Norway.

There is a likelihood of higher catch of undersized fish in the next few years owing to a high number of young fish entering the fishery in 2020. It is therefore important that the fishery is regulated by a relatively low TAC and spatial and temporal closures to reduce the likelihood of high catch and possible discarding of undersized fish. The minimum size for haddock is 40 cm, and the mean length of age 3 haddock in February is about 30 cm - above this size, they are large enough to be caught in trawl fisheries.

Fisheries targeting Northeast Arctic (NEA) cod and haddock take a bycatch of golden redfish (Sebastes norvegicus), which is on the Norwegian Redlist as a threatened (EN) species according to the criteria given by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). An estimated sustainable catch would be 1,500t: total 2018 catch of golden redfish was 6,647t. Measures to minimise bycatch of this species are essential, although other fisheries take a higher bycatch then NEA cod. Bycatch of coastal cod should also be kept as low as possible in order to promote rebuilding of that stock (see MCS’s Atlantic Cod: Norwegian Coast rating for details).

The fishery is regulated by a minimum catch size (which varies by gear and area), a minimum mesh size (130mm) and a maximum bycatch of undersized fish. Since January 1997, sorting grids have been mandatory for the trawl fisheries in most of the Barents Sea and Svalbard area. There are real-time closures of areas with high densities of juveniles, where the proportion by number of undersized cod, haddock, and saithe combined has been observed by inspectors to exceed 15%. The area is reopened after trial fishing shows the proportion to have reduced to below 15%. There are also seasonal and area restrictions: some areas are permanently closed, either to protect juvenile cod and haddock (around Bear Island) or to reduce fishing pressure on coastal cod and to avoid gear conflicts.

While trawling does have seabed impacts, fishers tend to avoid areas containing vulnerable species such as sponge because these affect the quality of the catch. There are designated MPAs in Norwegian and Russian waters, within which all fishing is prohibited. It is an offence for any fishing vessel to fish on or in close proximity to known areas of coral reef or coral garden. Norwegian vessels report the presence of cold-water corals or sponges in a catch and then move 2-5 miles away to continue fishing - this is monitored through Vessel Monitoring Systems.

In recent years, changes in the ice cover due to ocean warming means, that potentially more areas of seabed would be available for trawling which had not been trawled in previous years.

There are numerous Marine Stewardship Council certified cod, haddock and saithe fisheries in this area, some of which have a focus on reducing golden redfish bycatch and ensuring that habitat impacts are minimised, particularly for sea pens (Pennatulacea).


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
Cod, Atlantic Cod
Coley, Saithe
Hake, European
Monkfish, Anglerfish
Pollock, Alaska, Walleye
Sturgeon (Farmed)


ICES. 2019. Arctic Fisheries Working Group (AFWG). ICES Scientific Reports. 1:30. 930 pp. doi: 10.17895/ices.pub.5292. Available at http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Expert%20Group%20Report/Fisheries%20Resources%20Steering%20Group/2019/AFWG/AFWG2019.pdf [Accessed on 11.07.2019].

ICES. 2019. Haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus) in subareas 1 and 2 (Northeast Arctic). In Report of the ICES Advisory Committee, 2019. ICES Advice 2019, had.27.1-2, doi: 10.17895/ices.advice.4713. Available at http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2019/2019/had.27.1-2.pdf [Accessed on 11.07.2019].

MSC, 2019. Marine Stewardship Council: Norway North East Arctic cod. Available at https://fisheries.msc.org/en/fisheries/norway-north-east-arctic-cod [Accessed on 17.09.2019].

Seafish, 2019. RASS Profile: Haddock in the North-East Arctic (ICES subarea 1 and 2), Demersal otter trawl. Available at https://www.seafish.org/risk-assessment-for-sourcing-seafood/profile/haddock-in-the-north-east-arctic-ices-subarea-1-and-2-demersal-otter-trawl [Accessed on 11.07.2019]