Cod, Atlantic Cod

Gadus morhua

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — All
Capture area — North West Atlantic (FAO 21)
Stock area — West Greenland
Stock detail — NAFO Sub area 1: Offshore (Divisions 1A-1E)
Picture of Cod, Atlantic Cod

Sustainability rating five info

Sustainability overview

Updated: July 2020 

The cod caught around Greenland is from four separate stocks, which are defined based on where they spawn: Offshore Western Greenland; Inshore West Greenland (aka West Greenland fiords); Offshore Eastern and South Greenland; Inshore Icelandic waters. Offshore Western Greenland cod is at critically low levels, and ICES advice is for zero catch. However, this advice is not being followed and therefore this rating receives a critical fail for Stock Status and is a Default red rating.

Biology

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: Critical fail info

The cod caught around Greenland is from four separate stocks, which are defined based on where they spawn: Offshore Western Greenland; Inshore West Greenland (aka West Greenland fiords); Offshore Eastern and South Greenland; Inshore Icelandic waters. The proportional contribution of each stock to catches is highly uncertain. This rating is for offshore West Greenland, which is at critically low levels and ICES advice is for zero catch.

There are no reference points for this stock, but ICES considers the stock biomass to be very low compared to historical levels. For the first time in decades, spawning has been observed in 2019 in NAFO division 1C. ICES advises that when the precautionary approach is applied, there should be zero catch in 2020 and 2021. ICES is not able to identify any catch levels that are likely to correspond to rebuilding of cod in this area. No fishing should take place on this stock until a spawning component is established that is composed of a number of year classes. This is likely to take several years.

The assessment is considered uncertain, because of known stock mixing that affects both surveys and commercial catches. Surveys are believed to be indicative of trends of cod abundance in this area. The areas covered in the surveys are partly used as nursery grounds by other cod stocks, which impairs the ability of the surveys to represent the strength of recruiting year classes to the west Greenland stock.

Management

Scientific advice for this stock is for zero catch, but Greenland continues to allow targeted fishing in the offshore Western area and therefore is not following scientific advice for this critically low stock. This is therefore a Default red rating .

The Greenland commercial cod fishery in West Greenland started in the 1920s. The fishery gradually developed culminating with catch levels at 400,000 tonnes annually in the 1960s. Due to overfishing and deteriorating environmental conditions, the stock size declined and the fishery completely collapsed in the early 1990s. Zero catch advice has been in place for this stock since 2004, but a Total Allowable Catch of at least 5,000 tonnes was set from 2004-2008 and 2011-2013. In 2014 a management plan for the offshore cod fisheries was implemented, involving closing the offshore West Greenland cod fishery entirely, with the overall objective of rebuilding the stock to historic levels. In 2015 the management plan was overruled, and from 2015-2018 there was an annual TAC of 5,000t as an experimental fishery. While 2019 TAC was 0t, 2,000 tonnes of TAC was subsequently transferred from the inshore fishery TAC to the offshore fishery. Offshore catches in the fishery in 2019 amounted to a total of 899 tonnes, of these 476 tonnes where fished on the inshore quota. The catch was taken by 1 longliner (20%) and 2 small trawlers (80%).

Capture Information

Offshore catches in the fishery in 2019 amounted to a total of 899 tonnes, of these 476 tonnes where fished on the inshore quota. The catch was taken by 1 longliner (20%) and 2 small trawlers (80%). This is a very small fishery and so is unlikely to have significant environmental impact. In general, the longline fleet around Greenland may have a bycatch of roundnose grenadier (critically endangered), roughhead grenadier, tusk, Atlantic halibut (endangered) and Greenland shark.

Alternatives

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
Cod, Atlantic Cod
Cod, Pacific Cod
Coley, Saithe
Haddock
Hake, European
Monkfish, Anglerfish, White
Pollock, Alaska, Walleye
Sturgeon (Farmed)
Tilapia

References

ICES. 2019. Cod (Gadus morhua) in NAFO divisions 1A–1E, offshore (West Greenland). In Report of the ICES Advisory Committee, 2019. ICES Advice 2019, cod.21.1a-e, Available at https://doi.org/10.17895/ices.advice.4733 [Accessed on 02.07.2020].

ICES. 2020. North Western Working Group (NWWG). Draft Report. ICES Scientific Reports. 2:51. 431 pp. Available at http://doi.org/10.17895/ices.pub.6051 [Accessed on 02.07.2020].

IUCN. 2020. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Available at: https://www.iucnredlist.org/ [Accessed on 02.07.2020]