Cod, Pacific Cod

Gadus macrocephalus

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Pot or creel
Capture area — North East Pacific (FAO 67)
Stock area — Alaska
Stock detail

Bering Sea


Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)

Picture of Cod, Pacific Cod

Sustainability rating one info

Sustainability overview

Biomass is above reference points and the fishery is not undergoing overfishing. B2017/BMSY is 327,000/248000, therefore, B/BMSY = 1.5. Cod are managed under the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands Groundfish Fishery Management Plan which is managed using quotas, permits and monitored through record keeping, reporting requirements, and observer monitoring. No discarding of whole fish of these species is allowed. There is some concern over bycatch of Endangered, Threatened and Protected (ETP) species in the fishery, including halibut. National Oceanographic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) considers that there is a minimal threat to marine mammals in the fishery (and it is Category III) rated. To mitigate this, the Fishery Management Plan establishes catch limits for prohibited species, seasonal closures, gear modifications, quota share programs and the North Pacific Groundfish Observer Program. Essential Fish Habitat for Cod has been considered as sand, mud, combinations of the two, and gravel and the cod longline fishery catch cod over gravel, cobble, and rocky substrates, or silt, sand, and rocky substrates with minimal interaction with corals/bryozoans, sea pens/whips, and unidentified sponges. The fishery management council declared in a 2017 report that no further mitigation is needed to protect essential fish habitat at this time.


Pacific cod are also known as grey cod. They are found on the shelf edge and upper slope (100-250 m) in the winter, moving to shallower waters (<100 m) in the summer. Pacific cod are a demersal species, found near the sea floor. They are a moderately fast growing, short-lived species, reaching an average length of 19 cm in their first year and have a maximum age of 18 years. Half of the females reach sexual maturity at 4.4 years in the Gulf of Alaska and 4.9 years in the Bering Sea. Females grow significantly faster in the Bering Sea, compared to the Gulf of Alaska. They produce around 1 million eggs. Pacific cod prey includes clams, worms, crabs, shrimp, and juvenile fish. Their predators generally include halibut and marine mammals.

Stock information

Criterion score: 0 info

Stock Area


Stock information

The Pacific Cod stocks in this area are assessed regularly. The most recent assessment concluded that the stock is in a healthy state. The stock is not overfished (defined as B2017/BMSY is 327,000/248000, therefore, B/BMSY = 1.5) and is not undergoing overfishing. Fishing mortality is considered to be within safe limits.


Criterion score: 0 info

The Bering Sea’s Cod fishery is managed under the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands (BSAI) Groundfish Fishery Management Plan (FMP). This FMP includes a suite of measures to protect the stock. The FMP mandates a total allowable catch, which is regularly updated to reflect the likely biomass in the catch.

The FMP requires all vessels to have a permit and licences to fish in this fishery; catches are monitored and all cod that is caught must be retained. A proportion (10.7%) of the total allowable catch is allocated to the community development quota program, and the rest is provided to the various fishing fleets. There are some protected areas where trawling is prohibited and prohibited species (such as the Pacific Halibut) must be returned to the sea. Reporting of catch and effort is mandatory through the Catch Accounting System (CAS) to monitor the target catch and bycatch; fleets either have partial or full observer coverage.

The FMP was implemented in 1982 and covers the groundfish fishery.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.25 info

Longline fishing gear is the predominant method of harvesting cod in the Bering Sea and the pot fishery represents a smaller proportion of the catch.

Much of the bycatch caught in the fishery are species managed under the groundfish fishery management plan and there are catch limits for these species. There are biodegradable panels on ensure small-sized species and juveniles can escape. Catch of endangered, threatened and protected species is likely low and there are catch limits for some prohibited species e.g. Pacific halibut. The 2018 List of Fisheries report considers no marine mammals to be at risk in this fishery. In general, the risk of the pot fishery to birds is low compared to other Alaskan groundfish fisheries: seabird bycatch in pot fisheries in Alaskan federal waters, the only species regularly caught was the Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis).

Pots generally exhibit a low risk to the habitat and there are some closures in place to protect vulnerable features. For example, the Fishery Management Plan prohibits pot fishing for cod in the Pribilof Islands Habitat Conservation Zone.


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)


Froese, R. and Pauly, D. Editors. 2015.FishBase. Available at [Accessed August 2018].

NOAA, 2017. Pacific Cod Research. Available at: [Accessed August 2018].

FishWatch. 2018. Pacific Cod Gadus macrocephalus. Available at: [Accessed on 14th August 2018].

Thompson, G.,2017. Assessment of the Pacific Cod Stock in the East Bering Sea. Report produced for NOAA. Seattle. WA. Available at:

NOAA. 2018. North Pacific Observer Program. Available at: Fisheries. Anchorage, Alaska. Available at:

AFSC .2014. Seabird Bycatch Estimates for Alaskan Groundfish Fisheries, 2007-2013.