Cod, Pacific Cod

Gadus macrocephalus

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Demersal otter trawl
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. Not overfishing and within safe limits. 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 are concerns over bycatch of Endangered, Threatened and Protected (ETP) species in the fishery, including marine mammals and seabirds. To mitigate this, the FMP 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 trawl fishery in this area occurs over sand, mud, and/or cobble substrates and results in relatively minimal bycatch of sessile epibenthic fauna. 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: 0.5 info

Though the cod trawls in this area catch bycatch, many of the bycatch species are managed under the groundfish fishery management plan. Prohibited species e.g. Pacific halibut must be returned to the water quickly and safely unless they are specifically required to be retained. There are important catches of the Ringed seal and the Steller sea lion. NOAA lists the Bering Sea’s cod trawl fishery as a category III fishery, which means that there is a “remote likelihood of or no known incidental mortality and serious injury of marine mammals”. The 2015 Biological Opinion for the Alaskan groundfish fisheries “may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect” the breeding population of Steller’s eider and is “not likely to jeopardise the continued existence of the short-tailed albatross. Additionally, shearwater populations overlap with the Bering Sea cod trawl fishery.

The BSAI Pacific cod trawl fishery generally occurs over sand, mud, and/or cobble substrates and presents relatively minimal bycatch of sessile epibenthic fauna. There are area closures in place to protect vulnerable features such as corals from trawling, however, corals still occur as incidental catch (recorded in the 2017 stock assessment) and there is insufficient knowledge and protection of essential fish habitat for cod eggs.


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)


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Chen, E., 2014. Pacific cod, Gadus macrocephalus: Japan. Prepared for Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. Available at [Accessed July 2015].

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: [Accessed 14th August 2018].

North Pacific Fishery Management Council. 2017. FISHERY MANAGEMENT PLAN for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area. Anchorage, Alaska. Available at:

NOAA. 2017. Assessment of the effects of fishing on Essential Fish Habitat in Alaska. C6 Fishing Effects Discussion Paper. Available at:
br>Simpson, S. C., Eagleton, M. P., Olson, J. V., Harrington, G. A., and Kelly, S.R. 2017. Final Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) 5-year Review, Summary Report: 2010 through 2015. U.S. Dep. Commer., NOAA Tech. Memo. NMFS-F/AKR-15, 115p.

Bowen, D., Rice, J., Trumble, R.J. 2015. MSC Public Certification Report for Alaska Pacific Cod Fishery Bering Sea Aleutian Islands.

Bowen, D., Rice, J., Trumble, R.J.MSC 2nd Annual Surveillance Report Remote Surveillance for Alaska Pacific Cod Fishery Bering Sea-Aleutian Islands.

NMFS. 2015. BIOLOGICAL OPINION For the Effects of the Fishery Management Plans for the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands Groundfish Fisheries and the State of Alaska Parallel Groundfish Fisheries. Anchorage, Alaska. Available at: