Cod, Atlantic Cod
Method of production - Caught at sea
Capture method - Gill or fixed net
Capture area - North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area - Skagerrak, North Sea, Eastern Channel
Stock detail - IIIa, IV, VIId
Fish type - White round fish
Stock levels in the North Sea have declined from a peak of 250,000 tonnes in the early 1970s to their current level of around 70,000 tonnes. Fishing mortality continues to decrease and although above the target of the Management Plan the stock is being harvested sustainably. Through the Conservation Credit Scheme measures aimed at reducing cod mortality and discards to aid the recovery of the stock have been introduced and a 50% reduction in discards have been recorded for participating boats. Atlantic cod is listed by OSPAR as a threatened and declining species and by IUCN as vulnerable in Greater North Sea and Celtic Sea. However the efforts of fishers and managers through the Conservation Credits Scheme, and the fact that there is a long term management plan in place, are very positive moves and will hopefully see the fishery continue to recover in the coming years. 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 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, 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.
Skagerrak, North Sea, Eastern Channel
Stock levels in the North Sea have declined from a peak of 250,000 tonnes in the early 1970s to their current level of around 70,000 tonnes. There are long-term managment plans for this stock, the main aim ofwhich is to reduce fishing effort. There has been a gradual improvement in the status of the stock in the combined area (Skagerrak, North Sea, eastern Channel) over the last few years. SSB has increased from the historical low in 2006, and is now in the vacinity of Blim. Fishing mortality declined from 2000, and continues to decline and although still above Fmsy in 2012 it is now around the level identified in the Management Plans. ICES evaluated the managment plans in 2009 as in accordance with the precautionary approach if implemented and enforced adequately. Recruitment since 2000 has been poor. Although discards are still high relative to historical levels, there has been a decreasing trend since 2008. ICES advises that landings in 2014 should be no more than 28,809 t (25, 441 in 2013; 31,800 t in 2012). The TAC recommended for 2013 was 25,441 t. The TAC adopted following the December Council Meeting was 31,800 t, 25 % more than that recommended by both ICES and STECF scientists. The increase in the TAC was agreed amongst Ministers to reduce discarding.
Gillnets can be very size selective for the target fish but can be unselective at the species level for both non-target fish and for mammals, birds and turtles. The gillnet fishery for cod in these areas takes bycatches of harbour porpoise. Harbour porpoise are highly prone to bycatch in bottom-set gillnets used to catch demersal species such as cod, turbot, hake, saithe, sole, skate and dogfish and tangle net fisheries used to capture flat fish and crustaceans due largely to their feeding habits on or near the seabed. Porpoises are generally taken as single animals. EU Regulation 821/2004 requires all community fishing vessels, greater than or equal to 12 metres, using drift, gill and tangle nets to use pingers - acoustic devices to deter marine mammal entanglement in net. The minimum landing size for cod in waters in Skagerrak/Kattegat is 30cm. In all other EU waters it 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.
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); ICES Advice 2013, Book 6
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