The stock in this area is healthy but is harvested slightly above target i.e. fishing effort is too high and needs to be reduced. Atlantic cod is listed by OSPAR as a threatened and declining species in this area.
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 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. Spawning sites are in offshore waters, at or near the bottom (50-200 m depth) and at water temperatures of 0-12 C (preferred range 0-6C). May form spawning aggregations in the water column when temperatures are unsuitable. Different spawning areas may be used in subsequent years. Embryo development lasts about 14 days (at 6C) and larval phase about 3 months (at 8C). 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. Classified as a determinate multiple spawner. Older and larger cod have been found to produce larger eggs with neutral buoyancy at lower salinities. This can be crucial to egg and larval survival. Larvae are pelagic up to 2.5 months before settling on the bottom. The fish has a protruding upper jaw, a conspicuous barbel on the lower jaw (used to look for food), and light lateral line, curved above the pectoral fins. Predorsal distance is less than one third of total length; body depth about 1/5 of total length. Colour varies from brownish to greenish or gray dorsally and on upper sides, becoming pale and silvery ventrally. Peritoneum silvery. Distribution: North Atlantic and Arctic: Ungava Bay in Canada along the North American coast to Cape Hatteras; North Carolina in the western Atlantic. East and west coast of Greenland; around Iceland; from Barents Sea including the region around Bear Island along the European coast to Bay of Biscay. 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, form schools and swim about 30-80 m above the bottom, dispersing at night to feed. Omnivorous; feed at dawn or dusk on invertebrates and fish, including young cod. Migrate between spawning, feeding and overwintering areas, mostly within the boundaries of the respective stocks. Migrations >200 km are rare occurrences.
Spawning Stock Biomass is above Bpa and assessed as having full reproductive capacity. Fishing mortality although decreasing since 2005 is currently above target. Furthermore more than 80% of the landings are made up of age groups 1-3 and the stock is heavily dependent on incoming recruitment. Atlantic cod is listed by OSPAR as a threatened and declining species in the Greater North Sea and the Celtic Sea. In order to protect cod stocks in this area, Cornish fishermen's leaders, and their Irish and French counterparts, went to the European Commission with proposals for a 3,600 sq. mile 'closed season' off Trevose Head in the Bristol Channel. The closure was first introduced in February 2005. As far as MCS is aware, this is the largest industry proposed conservation closure area in Europe. However, the direct impact of the closure on the status of cod has not as yet been quantified. A plan for this stock is under development by the North Western Waters Regional Advisory Council (NWWRAC). ICES advises that landings in 2014 should be no more than 6,848 tonnes (10,200 t in 2013). The TAC recommended by scientists for 2013 was complied with.
Cod is caught in a number of ways including demersal otter trawl (76%), beam trawl (12%) and gillnet (4%). There is potential damage to the seabed by trawling. Trawling is also associated with discarding of unwanted fish, i.e. undersized and/or non-quota and/or over-quota species. From a total catch of 7.3 kt in 2011 35% was discarded. A major reason (70%) for discarding was attributed to highgrading - which is the throwing away of marketable fish for better quality fish in order to maximise the value of the catch. Discard figures for 2012 were much improved - 11%.
ICES Advice 2013, Book 5; The Net Effect. A WDCS Report for Greenpeace. Ross and Isaac (2004); The Price of Fish: A review of cetacean bycatch in fisheries in the north-east Atantic. L Nunny (2011).
(Based on method of production, fish type, and consumer rating: only fish rated 3 and below are included.)
Read what the consumer pages of the Good Fish Guide say about this species.
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