This stock has shown some increase after reaching a historical low in 2007 but biomass is still below target and fishing effort too high. In 2011 a 30% reduction in fishing effort was recommended by scientists. In 2014 the advice is for a 69% reduction in order to achieve a sustainable level. Avoid eating fish from over-fished 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 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.
Two distinct stocks are recognised in the Faroes. On the Faroes Plateau the stock has shown some increase after reaching a historical low in 2007, but remains below MSY trigger (a biomass reference point that triggers a cautious response i.e. reduce fishing mortaility to allow a stock to rebuild). Fishing mortality has decreased since 2002 and is now between F lim and F pa, but still above F msy. ICES recommends a further decrease in fishing mortality in 2013 to bring the stock within precautionary limits. An effort management system has been in place since 1996; however this is not considered to be in line with the precautionary approach, and currently it is not being achieved. Management by effort can encourage accelerated technical creep and rapid increase of capacity per vessel. ICES advice for this stock in 2014 is to further reduce fishing mortality by 69% (63% in 2013). A management plan based on general maximum sustainable yield (MSY) principles developed by ICES has yet to be approved by the authorities.
Cod are mainly taken in a directed cod and haddock fishery with longlines (59%), in a directed jigging fishery, and as bycatch in the trawl fishery for saithe.
ICES Advice 2013, Book 4
(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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