Melanogrammus aeglefinus

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Pelagic trawl
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — Irish Sea
Stock detail — 7a
Picture of Haddock

Sustainability rating two info

Sustainability overview

Updated: July 2019.

The stock is in a very good state, and fishing pressure is well within sustainable limits. Since 2012, technical gear measures to increase the selectivity of the fishery, such as sorting grids and separator panels, have become mandatory and appear to have successfully reduced discard rates, from 64% of the catch in 2012 to 22% in 2018. Most landings are from demersal and pelagic trawl, and most discards are from Nephrops and demersal trawling. However, Irish Sea cod is likely to be bycaught in this fishery, and that stock is at its lowest historical level. There is a seasonal closure of the spawning grounds for cod in the western Irish Sea.


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

Irish Sea

Stock information

The stock is in a very good state, and fishing pressure is well within sustainable limits.

The Spawning stock biomass (SSB) in 2018 was 20,241 tonnes, well above MSY Btrigger (4,281t). Fishing mortality (F) has been below FMSY (0.28) since 2013 and in 2018 was 0.154. Recruitment is variable, but estimated to have been below average since 2016.

ICES advises that when the EU multiannual plan (MAP) for Western Waters and adjacent waters is applied, catches in 2020 that correspond to the F ranges in the MAP are between 2,333 and 3,830 tonnes. According to the MAP, catches higher than those corresponding to FMSY (3,156 tonnes) can only be taken under conditions specified in the MAP, while the entire range is considered precautionary when applying the ICES advice rule. This is a 15.6% decrease on the 2019 advice, as a result of a decline in stock size in the past year.


Criterion score: 0.5 info

Management measures include TAC and effort restrictions as well as technical measures. Due to the bycatch of cod in the haddock fishery, regulations affecting Irish Sea haddock remain linked to those implemented under the cod recovery plan.

As of 2019, this stock is covered by the EU’s Western Waters Multi Annual management Plan (MAP). ICES considers that the FMSY range for this stock used in the MAP is precautionary. Since 2017, TACs have been below or in line with advice, and catches have been lower than TACs.

Discarding has been significant in this fishery, peaking at 64% of total catch in 2012, declining to 17% in 2017 and rising to 22% in 2018. The landing obligation was phased in for some fleets from 2017, and from 1st January 2019 will apply to all fleets catching haddock. This should end discarding.

Currently the stock assessment and management areas do not quite match because catches from the most south-westerly part of the Irish Sea are considered to be from the haddock stock inhabiting the Celtic Sea.

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: 0.25 info

The Nephrops directed trawl fishery, using small mesh sizes, accounted for 57% of discards in 2018. The demersal trawl whitefish fishery, with a slightly larger mesh size, accounted for 60% of landings and 39% of discards. Mid-water trawl accounted for 29% of landings. Most catches are by the UK, and some by the Republic of Ireland.

Mid-water trawl has low levels of bycatch and is of less concern than bottom trawling. It can occasionally make contact with the seabed, but fishers avoid this owing to potential damage to gear.

There is a seasonal closure of the spawning grounds for cod in the western Irish Sea between February and April, which also covers spawning grounds for haddock.


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)


EU, 2019. Regulation (EU) 2019/472 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 March 2019 establishing a multiannual plan for stocks fished in the Western Waters and adjacent waters, and for fisheries exploiting those stocks. Available at https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?qid=1554387217276&uri=CELEX:32019R0472 [Accessed on 12.07.2019].

ICES. 2019. Working Group for the Celtic Seas Ecoregion (WGCSE). ICES Scientific Reports. 1:29. 1078 pp. doi: 10.17895/ices.pub.4982. Available at http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Expert%20Group%20Report/Fisheries%20Resources%20Steering%20Group/2019/WGCSE/01_WGCSE_2019.pdf [Accessed on 11.07.2019].

ICES. 2019. Haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus) in Division 7.a (Irish Sea). In Report of the ICES Advisory Committee, 2019. ICES Advice 2019, had.27.7a, https://doi.org/10.17895/ices.advice.4784. Available at http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2019/2019/had.27.7a.pdf [Accessed on 11.07.2019].

Seafish, 2019. RASS Profile: Haddock in the Irish Sea, Midwater otter trawl. Available at https://www.seafish.org/risk-assessment-for-sourcing-seafood/profile/haddock-in-the-irish-sea-midwater-otter-trawl [Accessed on 11.07.2019]