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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 - Northeast Arctic (Barents and Norwegian Sea)
Stock detail - I & II
Certification - Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
Fish type - White round fish

Sustainability rating Click for explaination of rating

This fish, caught by the methods and in the area listed above, is a good sustainable fish to eat. Click on the rating icon above to read more and on the alternatives tab below to find similar fish to eat.


Sustainability overview

The cod stock in the northeast Arctic is assessed by scientists as being at sustainable levels or healthy. Fishing pressure however is currently too high. The Norway NE Arctic offshore cod fishery and the Barents Sea demersal trawl cod fishery within Norwegian and Russian EEZ and in international waters are certified as sustainable fisheries by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

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

Stock area
Northeast Arctic (Barents and Norwegian Sea)

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Stock information
Based on most recent estimates (June 2015) the stock level is above MSY B trigger and has full reproductive capacity, i.e. the stock is healthy and within precautionary limits and close to the highest observed. Fishing pressure has been increasing since 2012 and is currently too high and the stock at risk of being harvested unsustainably. Scientific advice is that catches in 2016 should be set at 805,000 t (no more than 894, 000 t in 2015; 993,000 t in 2014; 940,000 t in 2013) and that bycatches of coastal cod and redfish Sebastes marinus (norvegicus) should be kept as low as possible.

Management

A Management Plan which is in accordance with the Precautionary Approach has existed for this stock since 2004 and will remain in force until 2015. In addition to quotas and restrictions on mesh and minimum landing sizes, the fishery is also regulated by other measures, such as maximum bycatch of undersized and non-target species, and closure of areas with high density of juveniles. The fisheries are also controlled by inspections at sea, by a requirement to report at catch control points when entering and leaving the EEZs to land fish, and by VMS satellite tracking for some fleets. The Norway NE Arctic offshore cod fishery, using a range of fishing gears, was certified to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard as an environmentally responsible fishery in April 2010. The Barents Sea demersal trawl cod fishery within Norwegian and Russian EEZ and in international waters was also certified to the MSC standard in November 2010.

Capture information

The predominant (70%) gear type used to catch cod in this area is by demersal trawl. Cod is a target species caught in a mixed fishery together with haddock and saithe. Redfish are taken as bycatch in this fishery. The stock status for redfish in the area is low. There is a potential for damage to seabed from trawling. Trawling is also associated with discarding of unwanted fish, i.e. undersized and/or non-quota and/or over-quota species. Discarding of cod, haddock and saithe is thought to be significant in some periods. However, discarding is banned in Norwegian and Russian waters in which much of this fishery takes place. Since January 2011 the minimum landing size for cod in these waters is 44 cm. Trawlers in Barents and Norwegian Seas are also required to use sorting grids and much larger meshes than trawlers in European waters, allowing a higher precentage of small cod and undesirable catch to escape. Sorting grids are also mandatory in most of the Barents Sea and Svalbard area (since 1997), ensuring a more selective catch. For fixed net fisheries, bycatch of marine mammals and other non-target species can be problematic. However, use of management measures including acoustic devices called 'pingers' can help reduce bycatch of marine mammals. Longlining is a less fuel intensive and more selective method of fishing. There is, however, a risk of possible bycatch of shark and other non-target species, including seabirds. Handlines are typically used in artisanal and/or coastal fisheries and have less impact on fish stocks, non-target species (such as other fish and seabirds) and habitats (such as the seabed). Seine netting causes less damage to the seabed than trawling. It is also less fuel intensive and the catch of a better quality, as it is not bumped along the seabed as with trawling.

Read more about capture methods

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 Depending on how and where it's caught this species ranges from sustainable to unsustainable. Click the name to display only the sustainable options.

Bass, seabass (Farmed) Depending on how and where it's caught this species ranges from sustainable to unsustainable. Click the name to display only the sustainable options.

Bream, Gilthead (Farmed) Depending on how and where it's caught this species ranges from sustainable to unsustainable. Click the name to display only the sustainable options.

Cod, Atlantic Cod Depending on how and where it's caught this species ranges from sustainable to unsustainable. Click the name to display only the sustainable options.

Coley, Saithe Depending on how and where it's caught this species ranges from sustainable to unsustainable. Click the name to display only the sustainable options.

Haddock Depending on how and where it's caught this species ranges from sustainable to unsustainable. Click the name to display only the sustainable options.

Hake, Cape

Hake, European Depending on how and where it's caught this species ranges from sustainable to unsustainable. Click the name to display only the sustainable options.

Japanese amberjack, Yellowtail or Seriola

Pollock, Alaska, Walleye Depending on how and where it's caught this species ranges from sustainable to unsustainable. Click the name to display only the sustainable options.

Pouting or Bib Depending on how and where it's caught this species ranges from sustainable to unsustainable. Click the name to display only the sustainable options.

Sturgeon (Farmed) Depending on how and where it's caught this species ranges from sustainable to unsustainable. Click the name to display only the sustainable options.

Tilapia

Whiting Depending on how and where it's caught this species ranges from sustainable to unsustainable. Click the name to display only the sustainable options.


References
ICES Advice 2015, Book 3 http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2015/2015/cod-arct.pdf; http://www.fishbase.org/Summary/SpeciesSummary.php?ID=69&AT=cod

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