Pollack or Lythe

Pollachius pollachius

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Handline
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — Celtic Seas, West of Scotland
Stock detail — 6, 7
Picture of Pollack or Lythe

Sustainability rating three info

Sustainability overview

Updated: July 2019.

No reference points are defined for pollack in subareas 6. and 7. While the stock size is unknown, catches are the lowest on record, indicating there could be concern for biomass. Fishing mortality is estimated to be within sustainable limits. Total Allowable Catches in recent years have been set at three times the recommended limit, but landings have stayed well below this and match the scientific advice. However, recreational catches are unknown but thought to be substantial, almost equal to commercial catches, and it is likely that total catches are exceeding the limits recommended by scientists. Handlining for pollack in the SW is very low impact and selective. For information on line caught and tagged pollack from these waters, see www.linecaught.org.uk.


Distributed throughout the northeast Atlantic, pollack is a warm, temperate species belonging to the cod family. It is mostly found close to the shore with a preference for wrecks and rocky bottom. It usually occurs at 40-100 m depth but is found down to 200 m. Growth is rapid, approaching 10 cm per year. It migrates into deeper water as it grows. Maturity occurs at approximately 3 years. It spawns between January and April. Young of the first year are particularly common close inshore and may therefore be protected from fisheries in the early life stages. Species can reach a length of 120-130 cm. A maximum size of 130 cm, a maximum weight of 18 kg and a maximum age of 15 years are reported.

Stock information

Criterion score: 0.5 info

Stock Area

Celtic Seas, West of Scotland

Stock information

This is a data limited stock: the stock size is unknown, but catches are the lowest on record, indicating there could be concern for the stock size. Fishing mortality is estimated to be within sustainable limits. Pollack has a medium resilience to fishing pressure.

Commercial catches have declined since the late 1980s, and in 2018 are the lowest in the time-series.

ICES advises that when the precautionary approach is applied, commercial catches should be no more than 3360 tonnes in 2020, the same as in 2019.

The current assessment relies solely on commercial catch data, but recreational catch could be a large component of the total catch. Recreational fishery catches per year were recently estimated at approximately 3500 tonnes.

The stock structure of Pollack populations in this ecoregion is not clear. ICES does not necessarily advocate that subareas 6 and 7 constitutes a management unit for Pollack, and further work is required.


Criterion score: 0.5 info

The EU multiannual plan (MAP) for stocks in the Western Waters and adjacent waters applies to this stock. Separate Total Allowable Catches (TACs) are set for area 6 (West of Scotland) and area 7 (Irish Sea, west and southwest of Ireland, Celtic Seas, English Channel). Area 6 TAC is very low (397t since 2011), but Area 7 TAC is far in excess of recommended limits, at over 12,000t. Commercial catch advice for both areas combined from 2013-2018 was for 4,200t per year, while the combined Total Allowable Catch during this time averaged 13,445 tonnes - roughly 3 times the recommendation. However, landings have been around one third of the TAC, i.e. roughly equal to the catch advice. This suggests the TAC is not a limiting factor in this fishery. However, recreational catches might be significant (estimated 3,500t) and are not included in the management measures.

The stock structure of pollack populations in this ecoregion is not clear. ICES does not necessarily advocate that subareas 6 and 7 constitutes a management unit for Pollack, and further work is required.

Discards are negligible (Less than 1% of the commercial catch).

Fishers are only allowed to retain a limited level (5-70% dependent on mesh size and target species) of bycatch of non-target species such as pollack.

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 info

The majority of Pollack landings in the Celtic Sea ecoregions are caught by gillnets (43.9%) followed by bottom trawlers (23.4%) trolling lines (16.3%), miscellaneous gears (13.1%), beam trawlers (2.6%) and seiners (0.7%). Most (99%) of the catches are by France, the UK, and Ireland. Pollack are mainly targeted during the first quarter which coincides with spawning. Although the minimum landing size for pollack in EU waters is 30cm, it does not typically mature below 50cm.

Handlining is one of the most sustainable and species selective fishing methods available. Line-caught pollack taken by handliners fishing in Cornish and Devon waters is tagged, as part of a scheme to provide line-to-plate traceability and assure consumers of its sustainability. Small fish are rarely caught, but if caught they are returned alive immediately. Line fishing also has no unwanted by-catch.


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)


Froese R. and Pauly D. (Editors), 2019. Pollachius pollachius, Pollack. Available at: https://www.fishbase.se/summary/Pollachius-pollachius.html [Accessed on 17.07.2019].

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 17.07.2019].

ICES, 2019. Pollack (Pollachius pollachius) in subareas 6-7 (Celtic Seas and the English Channel). In Report of the ICES Advisory Committee, 2019. ICES Advice 2019, pol.27.6.7, https://doi.org/10.17895/ices.advice.4802. Available at http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2019/2019/pol.27.67.pdf [Accessed on 17.07.2019].

Seafish, 2018. RASS Profile: Pollack in the Celtic Sea and West of Scotland (ICES Subareas VI and VII), Handlines and pole lines. Available at https://www.seafish.org/risk-assessment-for-sourcing-seafood/profile/pollack-in-the-celtic-sea-and-west-of-scotland-ices-subareas-vi-and-vii-handlines-and-pole-lines [Accessed on 17.07.2019]