Cod, Atlantic Cod

Gadus morhua

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Demersal otter trawl
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — Faroes grounds
Stock detail — 5
Certification — Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
Picture of Cod, Atlantic Cod

Sustainability rating three info

Sustainability overview

The Faroe Bank fishery has been closed since January 2009. The Faroe Plateau stock was below Blim (lowest possible level of 21,000) for several years, but has now increased to above MSY Btrigger. Fishing pressure however remains too high. The Faroe Islands and North East Arctic cod fishery is certified as an environmentally responsible fishery by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).


Cod belongs to a family of fish known as gadoids, which also includes species such as haddock, pollack, pouting and ling. It is a cold-temperate (boreal) marine, demersal (bottom-dwelling) species. Also found in brackish water. Their depth range is 0 - 600 m, but they are more usually found between 150 and 200 m. They have a common length of 100 cm. Maximum length 200 cm. Maximum published weight 96 kg and a maximum reported age of 25 years. In the North Sea cod mature at 4-5 years at a length of about 50 cm. They spawn in winter and the beginning of spring from February to April. Fecundity ranges from 2.5 million eggs in a 5 kg female to a record of 9 million eggs in a 34 kg female. Sex ratio is nearly 50%, with slight predominance of females. The fish has a protruding upper jaw, a conspicuous barbel on the lower jaw (used to look for food), and a light lateral line, curved above the pectoral fins. Widely distributed in a variety of habitats, from the shoreline down to the continental shelf. Juveniles prefer shallow (less than 10-30 m depth) sublittoral waters with complex habitats, such as seagrass beds, areas with gravel, rocks, or boulder, which provide protection from predators. Adults are usually found in deeper, colder waters. During the day, cod form schools and swim about 30-80 m above the bottom, dispersing at night to feed.

Stock information

Criterion score: 0.5 info

Stock Area

Faroes grounds

Stock information

Two distinct stocks are recognised in the Faroes.

The Faroes Bank fishery is not defined in relation to scientific limits, but surveys indicate that the stock is severely depleted. The Bank has been closed to fishing since January 2009, with a nominal landing of 80t in the same year - the lowest since 1965. Because of the very low stock size ICES advises that the fishery should be closed. ICES advises that when the precautionary approach is applied, there should be zero catch in each of the years 2017, 2018, and 2019.

On the Faroes Plateau the spawning-stock biomass (SSB) was below Blim for several years, but has now increased to above MSY Btrigger (a biomass reference point that triggers a cautious response to reduce fishing mortality to allow a stock to rebuild) in 2018. Fishing mortality (F) has decreased since 2010 and is now close to FMSY. The 2009-2015 year classes are estimated to be below average size. The 2016 and 2017 year classes are estimated to be above average, though uncertainty is large.
ICES advises that when the MSY approach is applied, catches in 2019 should be no more than 10 180 tonnes.


Criterion score: 0 info

The Faroe Bank has been closed to fishing since 1 January 2009. However, in the fishing years 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 respectively, a total of 78 and 100 fishing days were allowed to small jiggers in the shallow waters of the Bank. ICES advises that the closure advice should apply to all fisheries.

There is no management plan for the Faroe Plateau stock. A preliminary management plan, including a recovery plan, was formulated in 2011, but has not been implemented. An effort management system has been in place from 1996 to 2018. A new management system will be implemented for cod, haddock, and saithe after 1 January 2019. This management system operates with catch quotas for large vessels (trawlers and longliners), whereas it operates with fishing days for the small vessels (mainly longliners). The catch quota for the small vessels needs to be converted into fishing days.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.5 info

On the Faroe Plateau cod are mainly taken in a directed cod and haddock fishery with longlines (38% in 2017; 58% in 2016; 62% in 2015), in a directed jigging fishery (9% in 2017; 10% 2016), and as bycatch in the trawl fishery (53% in 2017; 32% in 2016) for saithe.
Trawlers have been excluded from fishing on the Faroes Bank since 1996.


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
Coley, Saithe
Hake, Cape
Hake, European
Monkfish, Anglerfish
Pollock, Alaska, Walleye
Sturgeon (Farmed)


Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), 2018. Faroe Islands and Iceland North East Arctic cod, haddock and saithe. MSC Track a Fishery. Available at: (Accessed July 2018)
ICES, 2018. ICES Advice on fishing opportunities, catch, and effort Faroes Ecoregion. Published 13 June 2018. Available at: (Accessed June 2018);
ICES, 2017. ICES Advice 2017, Book 4. Available at:
ICES, 2016. Advice 2016, Book 4 Available at: (Accessed July 2018)