Melanogrammus aeglefinus

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — 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 2019.

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 bottom trawling and longlining on seabirds and habitats such as sponges and soft corals 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. 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

Stock Area


Stock information

The stock is in a good state but fishing pressure is too high and needs to be reduced.

Spawning-stock biomass (SSB) decreased from 121,075 tonnes in 2008 to hover at around 60,000-70,000t in the past 5 years, and was at 69,714t in 2018. This is above the threshold at which management measures need to be introduced (MSY Btrigger = 49,400t). The harvest rate (HR) was 0.43 in 2018, above the target (HRMGT), which 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 the precautionary limit (HRPA=0.5). Catch data is not yet available for 2018/19, but in 2017/18 the TAC (Total Allowable Catch) was 41,390t and the catch was 43,700t. Since the 2001/2002 fishing year, catches have exceeded the TAC by more that 5% in 5 years, the worst overshoot being by 11% in 2007/8. ICES advises that when the Iceland management plan (2019-2024) is applied, catches in the fishing year September 2019 - August 2020 should be no more than 41,823 tonnes. This is a 28% decrease from the previous year (57,982t), owing to a re-benchmarking of the stock and the reduction in the recommended Harvest Rate. Iceland’s management plans calculate TACs based on a stock-specific Harvest Control Rule, with the aim of maintaining MSY, and ICES considers the haddock plan to be precautionary. 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.


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.

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 in line with the aim of maintaining MSY. ICES considers it to be precautionary. Since the 2001/2002 fishing year, catches have exceeded the TAC by more that 5% in 5 years, the worst overshoot being by 11% in 2007/8. 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. Landings by foreign vessels are negligible: in 2018 around 2,200t were landed by Faroese fleets, the main source of foreign landings, and an estimated 47,600t by Iceland’s domestic fleets. Iceland’s management plan does not take these catches into account when setting TACs.

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.
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 stock 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.

In 2018, bottom trawling accounted for 33% of catches; longlining, 54%; and demersal seining, 11%. Most catches are from between 1 and 200m depth.

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
Coley, Saithe
Hake, European
Monkfish, Anglerfish
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 28.06.2019]

Government of Iceland, 2019b. Statement on Responsible Fisheries in Iceland. Available at https://www.government.is/news/article/2018/05/15/Fisheries/ [Accessed on 28.06.2019]

ICES, 2018. ICES Ecosystem Overviews: Icelandic Waters Ecoregion. Published 14 December 2018. doi: 10.17895/ices.pub.4669. Available at https://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2018/2018/IcelandicWatersEcoregion_EcosystemOverview.pdf [Accessed on 28.06.2019].

ICES, 2019. Haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus) in Division 5.a (Iceland grounds). In Report of the ICES Advisory Committee, 2019. ICES Advice 2019, had.27.5a, doi: 10.17895/ices.advice.4738. Available at http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2019/2019/had.27.5a.pdf [Accessed on 28.06.2019].

MSC, 2019. Marine Stewardship Council: ISF Icelandic Haddock. Available at https://fisheries.msc.org/en/fisheries/isf-iceland-haddock/@@assessments [Accessed on 01.07.2019].

MFRI, 2017. State of Marine Stocks and Advice 2017, Marine and Freshwater Research Institute. Haddock. Published 13 June 2017. Available at https://www.hafogvatn.is/static/extras/images/02-Haddock_TR%20(1)1141711.pdf [Accessed on 01.07.2019]

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 28.06.2019].

Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP), 2015. FishSource profile: Haddock Icelandic. Updated 27 September 2016. Available at https://www.fishsource.org/stock_page/1762 [Accessed on 01.07.2019]