Melanogrammus aeglefinus

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Demersal seine net
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — Iceland
Stock detail — 5a
Certification — Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
Picture of Haddock

Sustainability rating two info

Sustainability overview

Updated: July 2020

The stock is in a healthy state, but even though there is a precautionary management plan in place, fishing pressure remains above recommended levels. Management includes a Harvest Control Rule and a series of closures to protect juveniles and spawning stocks. Better monitoring of the impacts of longlining on seabirds is needed. While this fishery is less likely to have an impact on these species than others in Iceland (e.g. lumpsucker), it cannot be guaranteed that it is not impacting populations and better mitigation measures are needed. Otter trawling is not considered likely to impact vulnerable seabed habitats (maerl, Modiolus, Lophelia, coral or sponges) owing to the depth range of the fishery and the inability for trawling to take place on steep slopes. Danish seine is not considered to pose a risk to habitats, as it can only be deployed where the seabed is relatively smooth and therefore doesn’t contain vulnerable features. This fishery has been Marine Stewardship Council certified since 2012, although there are conditions on it relating to the aforementioned impacts (see Capture Methods tab for details).


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

The stock is in a good state but fishing pressure is too high and continuing to increase.

Spawning-stock biomass (SSB) decreased from over 140,000 tonnes in 2004 and has been fluctuating between 60,000 and 80,000t since 2010. In 2020 it is 76,201 tonnes. This is above the threshold at which management measures need to be introduced (MSY Btrigger = 49,400t). The harvest rate (HR) peaked in 2007 at 0.78, dropped to a historic low of 0.27 in 2014 but has since steadily increased since then, reaching 0.491 in 2019. The target (HRMGT) was set at 0.4 for the 2013-2018 management plan and reduced to 0.35 (HMSY) for the 2019-2024 plan to keep it in line with the precautionary approach and ICES MSY advice. HR remains below HRlim (0.63), which is defined as the HR which will maintain the stock above Blim with a 50% probability, and below the precautionary limit (HRPA=0.5, defined as having 95% probability that true HR is below HRlim). Recruitment of young fish into the stock has been close to the long term average in recent years, but the projection for 2020 recruitment is the lowest since 1981.

MFRI and ICES advise that when the Icelandic management plan is applied, catches in the fishing year 2020/2021 should be no more than 45,389 tonnes. This is an 8.5% increase on the previous year’s advice as biomass is expected to stay stable or increase from recent recruitment.

The distribution of a number of species around Iceland, including haddock, has shifted further north owing to warming waters. More catches are now coming from the north of the island than in the past two decades.

The stock was benchmarked in 2019 together with a management strategy evaluation which resulted in new reference points being defined. The HCR used from 2013–2018 was not precautionary, so target harvest rate was reduced from 0.4 to 0.35. The new management plan is consistent with both the Precautionary Approach and ICES MSY approach. Changes in maturity of haddock is the main reason why the former HCR is not precautionary as haddock matures older and larger than before, resulting in a relatively smaller SSB compared to the reference biomass.


Criterion score: 0.25 info

Management measures are precautionary but more needs to be done: TACs are regularly exceeded and fishing pressure is currently above recommended levels.

The Icelandic Ministry of Industries and Innovation (MII) is responsible for management of the Icelandic fisheries and implementation of legislation. Improved management measures by Iceland for most of its major stocks, including cod, haddock, saithe, redfish and herring have resulted in decreased fishing mortality, increased stocks and reduced pressure on benthic habitats. Harvest Control Rules (HCRs) are in place for cod, haddock, saithe, golden redfish, capelin, spring spawning herring, ling and tusk, and are reviewed every five years. Iceland’s current haddock management plan (HCR) lasts from 2019-2024, and sets TACs with the aim of maintaining MSY. ICES considers it to be precautionary. TACs - which only apply to the Icelandic fleet - have been set at around 97% of the scientific advice since 2018. Catches by other countries (primarily Faroes) average around 3%. Therefore, total catches should be in line with the advice, but since the 2014/15 fishing year, catches by Icelandic fleets have exceeded the TAC by 7% on average. Iceland’s scientific body, the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute, reports the causes to be transfers of quota share between fishing years and conversion of TAC from one species to another. Discards may have been substantial in the early 1990s but in recent years are estimates to be less than 3% in weight and numbers.

In addition to TACs, the following closures are in place:
Spawning areas are closed for 2-3 weeks during the spawning season for all fisheries.
Since 1998 the minimum codend mesh size allowed in the trawling fishery has been 135 mm.
To prevent high grading and quota mismatch, fisheries are allowed to land fish that will not be accounted for in the allotted quota, provided that the proceedings when the landed catch is sold will go to the Fisheries Project Fund.
The effects of these measures have not been evaluated. There is no minimum landing size for this stock.

There are a series of measures for monitoring and enforcement, including: publication of individual vessel quotas, independent verification and recording of landings, gear restrictions (and inspections), catch logs, prohibition of discarding in the demersal fishery. There is VMS and the coast guard has powers to intercept and inspect vessels. 25% observer coverage is required on Icelandic vessels on the high seas, and 100% of EU vessels in Icelandic waters.

This fishery is MSC-certified with conditions - see Capture Method tab for details.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.25 info

There are a number of measures in place to mitigate impacts of the fishery on non-target species, juveniles, and habitats, and bycatch is unlikely.

Around 60% of Icelandic haddock catches were by trawling in 2019, 40% by longlining and 15% by demersal seining. Most is caught at depths less than 200m. The main fishing grounds are in the south and west of the Icelandic shelf, but an increasing proportion of catches are coming from the north and northeast, likely owing to warming waters.

Various measures are in place to protect small fish and vulnerable habitats, e.g. regulations on the type of fishing gear allowed in different areas, minimum mesh sizes, and small-fish sorting grids. If the percentage of small fish in the catch or the by-catch exceeds guideline limits, the relevant fishing area may be closed within a few hours. If small fish or by-catch repeatedly exceeds guideline limits, the relevant area is closed for a longer time. Time, area and gear closures are in place to protect haddock and other demersal species’ spawning grounds, and trawling is banned from some areas to protect corals. Sharks and skates are taken as bycatch in Icelandic fisheries, but catch rates are incomplete and the status of stocks is unknown. The endangered Atlantic halibut is impacted by fisheries around Iceland, so a mandatory release of viable halibut and a landings ban were introduced in 2012. Interactions with and impacts on Protected, Endangered and Threatened species by the fishery are very unlikely, apart from a small risk of seabird entanglement with longlines. The effects of otter trawling in Iceland have been investigated and the results suggested that only a few species were affected by it.

100% of Icelandic haddock landed by the Icelandic fleet is MSC certified. There are conditions on the fishery relating to impacts of some of the gears, but none relating to Danish or demersal seine netting.


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


Government of Iceland, 2019a. Management Strategy and Harvest Control Rules Available at https://www.government.is/news/article/2018/05/15/Haddock/ [Accessed on 07.07.2020]

Government of Iceland, 2019b. Statement on Responsible Fisheries in Iceland. Available at https://www.responsiblefisheries.is/seafood-industry/fisheries-management/statement-on-responsible-fisheries [Accessed on 07.07.2020] Honneland, G., Medley, P.A.H., Huntington, T. and le Roux, L. 2019. ISF Iceland haddock: 2nd Surveillance Report. Carried out by Vottunarstofan Tún ehf. Published on 16 July 2019. Available at https://fisheries.msc.org/en/fisheries/isf-iceland-haddock/@@assessments [Accessed on 08.07.2020].

ICES, 2019. ICES Ecosystem Overviews: Icelandic Waters Ecoregion. Published 12 December 2019. Available at http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2019/2019/EcosystemOverview_IcelandicWaters_2019.pdf [Accessed on 07.07.2020].

MFRI, 2019. State of Marine Stocks and Advice 2019: Fisheries Overview. Marine and Freshwater Research Institute. Published 13 June 2019. Available at https://www.hafogvatn.is/static/files/d00-fishoverview_2019.pdf [Accessed on 07.07.2020].

MFRI, 2020. State of Marine Stocks and Advice: Haddock, Melanogrammus aeglefinus. Marine and Freshwater Research Institute, published 16 June 2020. Available at https://www.hafogvatn.is/static/extras/images/02-haddock1206937.pdf [Accessed on 08.07.2020].

MFRI, 2020. MFRI Assessment Reports: Haddock, Melanogrammus aeglefinus. Available at https://www.hafogvatn.is/static/extras/images/02-haddock_tr1206935.pdf [Accessed on 08.07.2020].

Reeves, S. A., Bell, J. B., Cambie, G., Davie, S. L., Dolder, P., Hyder, K., Pontalier, H., Radford Z. and Vaughan, D., 2018. An international review of fisheries management regimes. Cefas. Issued 2 August 2018. Available at http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Document.aspx?Document=14357_A_Review_of_International_Fisheries_Management_Regimes.pdf [Accessed on 07.07.2020].