Melanogrammus aeglefinus

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Demersal otter trawl
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — Rockall
Stock detail — 6b
Picture of Haddock

Sustainability rating two info

Sustainability overview

Updated: December 2019 

Haddock biomass from the Rockall region has increased five-fold in the last five years. The stock is in a healthy state and is well above any warning reference points such as BMSY Trigger or BMSY limit. The stock recruitment has been increasing since 2008-2011 period, from an all time low, but is still below average. Fishing mortality has strong fluctuations but has, in general, been declining in recent years. Fishing mortality has hovered around FMSY for the last few years and in 2018 was estimated to be below the FMSY. There is no haddock-specific management plan for haddock in this area (excluding MSC Rockall haddock), though the EU multi annual plan (MAP) for Western Waters does cover this stock. This is a recently implemented management plan (2019/2020) and so the effectiveness is currently undetermined. Most haddock (99.6%) in this area is caught by otter trawling, over a mixture of substrates, including rocky reefs and boulders. There is limited information on bycatch, and no records of marine mammal bycatch, but there are some concerns over catch of vulnerable species such as skates and sharks. Habitat impacts of longlining (0.4% of catches) are low, but there is potential for bycatch of Endangered, Threatened and Protected species such as sharks and seabirds. However, there is some uncertainty surrounding the levels of bycatch of such species. There are areas in Rockall with protective measures in regards to vulnerable habitats and haddock spawning.


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 info

Stock Area


Stock information

The Rockall haddock stock is healthy with no overfishing. This stock is separate from the haddock stocks around the UK continental shelf, and has lower growth rates and a smaller maximum size.

The spawning stock biomass in 2019 was the highest value since 1991, a big improvement from 2014, when it was the lowest on record. Recruitment has improved steadily since 2011, though is expected to still be below average in 2019 and 2020. Fishing mortality has slowly been reducing since the 1990s, and the last few years have seen the lowest fishing mortality, though it still is hovering around the FMSY. In 2012 and 2016 F was below FMSY, but from 2013-2015, and again in 2017, F was above FMSY. In 2018 F was again below FMSY (F/FMSY = 0.96).

The discards for haddock are relatively small, certainly compared to historical values. During the 1990s haddock discards were often double the landings or more. The 2019 discard estimates are around 13% of total haddock catch, which is similar to the last 5 years (8-17% annual discard rate). The selectivity of longlines in hook size usually means juveniles are less likely to be caught in that fishery.

The advice for catch under the MSY approach is 10472 tonnes, a marginal increase from the 2019 advice (10469 tonnes).

The Scottish industry observer sampling scheme has tried to improve coverage in this area, though haddock samples remain low. More sampling opportunities are being hoped for in the future.


Criterion score: 0.5 info

Haddock in this area is not overfished or undergoing over fishing and discard rates have been reducing steadily. It is covered by new management measures (EU Western Waters Multi Annual Plan, MAP), regulations over international waters have been put in place and landings have been consistently in line with TAC recommendations. Improvements have been made, but the effectiveness of this remains to be seen.

Scotland is the main country fishing for Rockall haddock, with Ireland and Norway the second and third largest. Other countries such as Russia and Faroe Islands occasionally land haddock from this region.

Under a recent robust analysis, all of the harvest control rules have been shown to be precautionary in the short, medium and long term except for in circumstances of consistently low recruitment over a prolonged period of time. Therefore management is largely considered to be precautionary. The recommended Total Allowable Catch has been adhered to since the implementation of the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) approach in 2014. There is a minimum landing size of 30 cm. However, while this TAC has been adhered to, it only covers European waters. As part of this sub-region is in international waters this means regulations such as catch and minimum landing size do not apply to international vessels, such as Russian trawlers which have been known historically (early 2000s) to fish heavily in this region. However a number of protocols have been put in place, such as closed areas to fishing (except for longlines) to protect juvenile haddock and cold water corals, and a discard ban has been in place in the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission regulatory area since 2009.

While there is no haddock-specific management plan, this stock now comes under the EU Multi Annual Plan (MAP) which is being implemented across 2019-2020. The effectiveness of such a plan is currently unknown.

In the European Union (EU), EU fishing vessels can fish up to 12 nautical miles of any Member State coast, and closer by agreement. There is overarching fisheries legislation for all Member States, but implementation varies between fisheries, Member States and sea basins.
The EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is the primary overarching policy. Its key environmental objectives are to restore and maintain harvested species at healthy levels (above BMSY), and apply the precautionary and ecosystem-based approaches to fisheries management. To achieve the MSY objective, the MSY exploitation rate is supposed to be achieved by 2020, but this seems unlikely to happen.
The CFP also introduced a Landing Obligation (LO) which bans the discarding at sea of species which are subject to catch limits. Some exemptions apply to species with high post-capture survival, and where avoiding unwanted catches is very difficult. These exemptions are outlined in regional discard plans. Despite quota ‘uplift’ being granted to fleets under the LO, available evidence suggests there has been widespread non-compliance with the policy, and illegal and unreported discarding is likely occurring.
Multi-Annual Plans (MAPs) are a tool for implementing the CFP regionally, with one in place or being developed for each sea basin. They specify fishing mortality targets and ranges for the main targeted species, as well as lower biomass reference points. If populations drop below these points it should trigger a management response. The MAPs also empower Member States to jointly apply measures such as closures, gear or capacity limits, and bycatch limits. There is concern however that the MAPs do not provide adequate safeguards to maintain all stocks at healthy levels.
The EU Technical Measures regulation addresses how, where and when fishing can take place in order to limit unwanted catches and ecosystem impacts. There are common measures that apply to all EU sea basins, and regional measures that vary between sea basins. Measures include Minimum Conservation Reference Sizes (MCRS, previously Minimum Landing Sizes, MLS), gear specifications, mesh sizes, closed areas, and bycatch limits.
The Control Regulation, which is being revised in 2019, addresses application of and compliance with the above, e.g. keeping catches within limits, recording and sharing data, and satellite tracking of vessels over 12 metres (VMS).

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.5 info

Most haddock in this area is caught by otter trawling, over a mixture of substrates, including rocky reefs and boulders. There is limited information on bycatch, and no records of marine mammal bycatch, but there are some concerns over catch of vulnerable species such as skates and sharks.

There is potential for damage to the seabed by trawling (e.g. see the EU BENTHIS project). Trawling is also associated with discarding of unwanted fish, i.e. undersized and/or non-quota and/or over-quota species.

There are a number of closed areas on the Rockall and Hatton Banks and the Darwin Mounds to protect cold-water corals, which may potentially provide further incidental protection for haddock stock. Large areas near the Wyville-Thompson ridge are also closed to demersal trawling which affords protection for corals in these areas. Fishing is closed in multiple areas around the Rockall Bank including the Northwest and southwest Rockall Bank area and the Haddock Box. The former two are closed to protect Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VMEs) and the latter to protect haddock stocks.

Information on bycatch in this region is somewhat limited. Landings from the Marine Stewardship Council-certified Rockall haddock fishery show bycatch between 2-36% of species such as megrim, saithe, ling and monkfish. As the gear type is similar, it can be postulated that similar species are also caught as bycatch in non-certified fisheries in the Rockall area. Discards have historically been high, though there is a level of uncertainty associated with this due to limited observer coverage. In 2018 observers found 32% discard rates on Scottish and Irish vessels, a change in 2017 discard rates (11% and 56% respectively). As cod and whiting are bycatch from the haddock fishery and have very low catch allowances and are somewhat data deficient, there is the possibility that the haddock fishery is impacting the current cod and whiting population.

In the mixed gadoid demersal fishery, several elasmobranch species can be caught in otter trawls, including the common skate (complex) and spurdog. Both species have depleted populations in the area, but protections are in place, including prohibitions at EU level. Trawl gears in the Celtic Seas have been observed to have a high bycatch of elasmobranchs, including vulnerable species. There are closed areas in place to protect habitats utilised by the species, which are enforced using VMS data. However, there is a lack of information regarding catch rates for both species and there is low observer coverage. Therefore it is difficult to fully understand the impact of the fishery on ETP species.


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, 2019a. NEAFC request to evaluate a harvest control component of a long-term management plan for haddock at Rockall. In Report of the ICES Advisory Committee, 2019. ICES Advice 2019, sr.2019.17, https://doi.org/10.17895/ices.advice.5588 [Accessed on 06.12.2019].

ICES. 2019b. Haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus) in Division 6.b (Rockall). In Report of the ICES Advisory Committee, 2019. ICES Advice 2019, had.27.6b. https://doi.org/10.17895/ices.advice.5589 [Accessed on 06.12.2019].

ICES. 2019c. ICES Stock Annex for Haddock in Division 6.b. Available at ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Stock%20Annexes/2019/had.27.6b_SA.pdf [Accessed on 06.12.2019].

ICES. 2019d. Working Group for the Celtic Seas Ecoregion (WGCSE). ICES Scientific Reports. 1:29. 1587 pp. Available at http://doi.org/10.17895/ices.pub.4982 [Accessed on 06.12.2019].

Seafish, 2019. Gear Profile: Long line. Available at https://www.seafish.org/gear/gear/profile/long-line [Accessed on 06.12.2019].

Seafish, 2017. RASS Profile: Haddock in Division VIb (Rockall), demersal otter trawl. Available at https://www.seafish.org/risk-assessment-for-sourcing-seafood/profile/haddock-in-division-vib-rockall-demersal-otter-trawl [Accessed on 06.12.2019].

Pham, C., Diogo, H., Menezes, G. Porteiro, F., Braga-Henriques, A., Vandeperre, F. and Morato, T., 2015. Deep-water longline fishing has reduced impact on Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems. Nature Scientific Reports: 4, 4837. doi:10.1038/srep04837 [Accessed on 06.12.2019].

Duran Munoz, P., Murillo, F., Sayago-Gil, M., Serrano, A., Laporta, M., Otero, I., and Gomez, C., 2011. Effects of deep-sea bottom longlining on the Hatton Bank fish communities and benthic ecosystem, north-east Atlantic. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 91(4), 939-952. doi:10.1017/S0025315410001773 [Accessed on 06.12.2019].

Jones, H., Cook, R., Gascoigne, J. and Honneland, G., 2018. Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Public Certification Report SFSAG Rockall haddock On behalf of Scottish Fisheries Sustainable Accreditation Group (SFSAG) Prepared by ME Certification Ltd. Lymington, UK., Available at https://fisheries.msc.org/en/fisheries/scottish-fisheries-sustainable-accreditation-group-sfsag-rockall-haddock/@@assessments [Accessed on 06.12.2019].

Midteide, S., Lassen, H. and Gaudian G., 2019. Survellience audit no. 1: Report for the NFA Norwegian Ling & Tusk fishery and NFA Norwegian Lumpfish fishery. Available at https://fisheries.msc.org/en/fisheries/nfa-norway-ling-tusk-and-nfa-norway-lumpfish/@@assessments [Accessed on 06.12.2019].

Andersen, O. R. J., Small, C. J., Croxall, J. P., Dunn, E. K., Sullivan, B. J., Yates, O. and Black, A., 2011. Global seabird bycatch in longline fisheries. Endangered Species Research, 14, 91-106. Supplementary materials (pg 9). Available at https://www.int-res.com/articles/esr_oa/n014p091.pdf [Accessed on 06.12.2019].

SFSAG, 2019. Voluntary Code of Conduct for SFSAG vessels operating in the Rockall Bank Haddock Fishery. Available at http://scottishfsag.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Voluntary-Code-of-Conduct-for-SFSAG-vessels-operating-in-the-Rockall-Bank-Final.pdf [Accessed on 06.12.2019].