Molva molva

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Longline
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27) and Arctic Ocean (FAO 18)
Stock area — Northeast Atlantic and Arctic Ocean
Stock detail

VI-IX, XII, and XIV, and in divisions III.a and IV.a

Picture of Ling

Sustainability rating four info

Sustainability overview

Ling, although less vulnerable to fishing mortality than typical deep-water species resides in deep waters forming assemblages with more vulnerable deep sea fish. Catches are stable or increasing for the major fisheries, but it is uncertain whether this is due to improved fishing efficiency or increased abundance. The state of the stock relative to historical levels is unknown and may have been higher in the past.


Ling is the largest member of the gadoid or cod family. It is a demersal species found mainly on rocky bottoms. Spawning areas are Biscay, the slopes west of the British Isles and off the Faroes and Southern Iceland. They can reach up to 2m in length, 45kg in weight and can live to 25 years of age. Ling are found between 100 m and 1000 m depth but most commonly between 100 m and 400 m; younger fish are often found inhabiting the shallowest end of their depth range and older individuals found at greater depths, although these fish move into shallower water to spawn. An active predator, ling feeds on other fish species such as cod and herring and will also feed on lobsters and other invertebrates. Ling spawns in spring/summer, between April and July, in Scottish waters. Maturity (50%) occurs at lengths of 71 cm for females and 62 cm for males. Life history traits are in line with other members of the gadoid family and as such ling is less vulnerable to fishing mortality than typical deep-water species.

Stock information

Criterion score: 0.5 info

Stock Area

Northeast Atlantic and Arctic Ocean

Stock information

The scientific advice for this stock is based on a standardized catch per unit effort (CPUE, the catch of fish in numbers or weight taken by a defined period of effort) series from the Norwegian longline fleet which shows an increasing or positive trend since 2004. Other time-series covering smaller areas of the stock distribution show a similar trend. Landings have been stable for the last five years, with an increase in discards in the last three years. Previous advice considered discarding to be negligible. The discard rate has been increasing and reached 8.3% of the catches in 2016. Discards are estimated at 5.1% of the catch over the last three years. ICES advises that when the precautionary approach is applied, catches should be no more than 17 695 tonnes in each of the years 2018 and 2019. If discard rates do not change from the average of the last three years (2014-2016) this implies landings of no more than 16 793 tonnes.


Criterion score: 0.75 info

Ling is managed as a widely distributed and migratory stock through a system of quotas and Total Allowable Catch (TAC). There is no agreed precautionary management plan for ling in the area. Minimum landing size for ling is 63 cm.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.5 info

The major directed fishery for ling in Divisions IVa and subarea VI is by Norwegian longline. Longlining is a less fuel intensive and more selective method of fishing than trawling. There is possible bycatch of shark and other non-target species, including seabirds. It is mainly fished in depths in the range of 200-500 m. Fishing on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge is in the depth range 500-800m. Deep sea ecosystems are highly vulnerable and have a very low resilience, thus the impacts of any large scale removal of fish or abrasion of the seabed caused by fishing gear are likely to be severely detrimental with recovery slow, especially with regard to coldwater corals. The minimum landing size for ling in EU waters is 63cm so smaller fish are illegal. However ling matures at 80-90cm, so this is inadequate. Choose ling above 90cm to ensure it’s maturity.


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
Bass, seabass (Farmed)
Bream, Gilthead (Farmed)
Cod, Atlantic Cod
Cod, Pacific Cod
Coley, Saithe
Hake, Cape
Hake, European
Pollock, Alaska, Walleye
Sturgeon (Farmed)


ICES Advice 2017 (Accessed June 2018)