Good Fish Guide
Cod, Atlantic Cod
Method of production - Caught at sea
Capture method - Demersal otter trawl
Capture area - North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area - West Scotland
Stock detail - VIa
Certification - None
Fish type - White round fish
The stock in this area is depleted and ICES advises that there be no directed fisheries in 2016 and 2017 and that bycatch and discards should be minimised. Although discard rates are reported to be decreasing, 78% of the total catch in 2014 was discarded. Avoid eating cod from depleted stocks.
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.
The spawning stock biomass for cod in this area has been below Blim since 1997 and remains at a very low level, well below Blim since 2006. The stock is assessed as being depleted. Total mortality on the stock is high. Fishing mortality is above target and the stock harvested unsustainably. ICES advises that there should be no directed fisheries and that bycatches and discards or all catches of cod in the area should be minimised in 2016 and 2017. Atlantic cod is listed by OSPAR as a threatened and declining species in Greater North Sea and Celtic Sea. Avoid eating cod caught in the area.
Cod in this area is subject to a long-term management plan. The fishery is managed by a combination of Total Allowable Catch (TAC), area closures, e.g. Clyde Sea and 'Windsock' closed area, technical measures and effort restrictions. These do not seem to have been effective in controlling catches, or sufficient to rebuild the stock. Ironically, the increase in mesh size from 100 to 120mm for vessels fishing for cod has caused fishermen to switch from whitefish to nephrops, which are fished using smaller mesh nets, resulting in an increase in effort using 80mm nets. Previous problems with Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported Fishing have been removed by the implementation of the Registration of Buyers and Sellers in 2005.
96% of the cod catch is taken in trawl fisheries targeting finfish in the area. Discard rates remain high at 78%, with otter trawls accounting for 92% of the 1311 t of cod discarded in 2014. Discard rates in previous years are not disimilar, although much improved when compared to the situation in 2011. Of the total catch of 1,501t in 2013, 20% (29% in 2012) are reported landings and 80% are discards (71% in 2012) compared to 6,364 t total catch in 2011, where 8% was reported landings and the rest (92%) discards. The minimum landing size for cod in EU waters is 35cm. The approximate size at which 50% of females first spawn is however 60 to 70cm.
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.
ICES Advice 2015, Book 5 http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2015/2015/cod-scow.pdf
Sign up to get all the latest marine related news from MCS
The UK charity for the protection of our seas, shores and wildlife.