Cod, Pacific Cod

Gadus macrocephalus

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

Aleutian Islands


Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)

Picture of Cod, Pacific Cod

Sustainability rating three info

Sustainability overview

The Aleutian Islands stock status is unknown but data available show a decline in biomass. The fishery is not undergoing overfishing. The species is of low resilience. There is concern for biomass but not for fishing mortality. 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. There are concerns over bycatch of Endangered, Threatened and Protected (ETP) species in the fishery, including marine mammals and seabirds. To mitigate this, the management plan establishes catch limits for prohibited species, seasonal closures, gear modifications, quota share programs and the North Pacific Groundfish Observer Program. No discarding of whole fish of these species is allowed. There are concerns over bycatch of ETP species in the fishery, including marine mammals and seabirds. 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 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: 0.75 info

Stock Area


Stock information

The Pacific Cod stock in this area has received a recent (2017) assessment. Though there are insufficient data available to determine whether the stock is overfished or not. However, there has been a general long-term decline in biomass. Therefore, there is some concern for the biomass. The stock is not considered to be undergoing overfishing.

The most recent stock assessment shows the historical biomass trends. Biomass was at low levels and considered to be in the ‘red’ zone in years around 2010 - 2013. Biomass has since increased and is showing an increasing trend, though is only just in the ‘yellow’ zone.


Criterion score: 0.25 info

The Aleutian Island’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. However, there are insufficient data to determine the biomass of the Aleutian Islands stock relative to reference points and therefore, it is difficult to determine if the level of fishing mortality is appropriate.

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

Cod in the Aleutian Islands is predominantly caught using trawl gear.

Bycatch>br>The percentage of bycatch is limited in cod trawls where a proportion of the cod catch can be particular species e.g. pollock, plaice and sable fish (Table 11 of 50 CFR part 679). These fishes are mostly considered under the groundfish Fishery Management Plan. Though bycatch in the cod trawl fisheries are generally low, there are important catches of the Ringed seal and the Steller sea lion. NOAA lists the Aleutian Island’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. The Ecosystem Considerations Report (2016) for the Aleutian Islands claimed that substantial parts of the Aleution Islands were closed to trawling and longlining for Pacific Cod since 2011 to protect Steller Sea lions. These areas were subsequently re-opened in 2014.

Habitat and Ecosystem
The most recent review of the Essential Fish Habitat and peer review responses stated that updates to the cod’s essential fish habitat were required. The Fishery Management Plan shows that there is no Essential Fish Habitat determined or there is insufficient information to determine their habitat and certain life stages and therefore, cod eggs and early juvenile cod may not receive sufficient protection. This is particularly important given that the Aleutian Islands stock biomass has declined in the long-term. Additionally, there is insufficient protection from trawl fisheries over certain vulnerable features e.g. corals. There are some closed areas, which apply to non-pelagic gears.


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].

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.G., Palsson, W.A. 2017. Assessment of the Pacific Cod Stock in the Aleutian Islands. 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.

North Pacific Fishery Management Council. 2016. Ecosystem Considerations 2016 Status of the Aleutian Islands Marine Ecosystem. Anchorage, AK Available at:

NOAA. 2015. Table 11. 50 CFR part 679. Available at:

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: