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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 - West Scotland
Stock detail - VIa
Accreditation -
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 the least sustainable fish to eat and should be avoided. Click on the rating icon above to read more and on the alternatives tab below to find sustainable fish to eat.


Sustainability overview

The stock is depleted and ICES advises that there be no directed fisheries and that bycatch and discards of cod in 2013 and 2014 should be minimised. Although discard rates are reported to be decreasing, 80% of the total catch in 2013 was discarded. Avoid eating cod from depleted stocks.

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. 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 0-6°C). 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 6°C) and larval phase about 3 months (at 8°C). 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, cod 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.

Stock information

Stock area
West Scotland

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Stock information
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 of cod should be minimised in 2013 and 2014. 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.

Management

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.

Capture information

90-95% (80% a year ago) of the cod catch is taken in trawl fisheries targeting finfish and around 5-10% (15-20% a year ago) as bycatch in Nephrops trawl fisheries. Discarding is now 2.6 times greater than landings, a huge reduction compared to that reported last year, when it was 11 times higher than landings. 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.

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.

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

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 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 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

Japanese amberjack, Yellowtail or Seriola

Meagre

Pouting or Bib

Sturgeon 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 2014, Book 5 http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2014/2014/cod-scow.pdf

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