Stock of northeast arctic cod (Gadus morhua)

Full-figure underwater shot of a cod.
Photo: Stein Ø. Nilsen / Norwegian Polar Institute

The spawning stock of northeast arctic cod is at a high level. The northeast arctic cod is the largest cod stock in the world.

What is being monitored?

Stock in the Barents Sea

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The stock of northeast arctic cod has declined between 2013 and 2018.

Status and trend

Both the total stock and the spawning stock have grown since 2006, and peaked in 2013. Since then there has been a decline, but both the total stock and the spawning stock is still well above the long term average for 1946-2017. The spawning stock in 2018 was estimated to be 1.5 million tonnes. This is far above the action limit set by fisheries management. The spawning stock is important to ensure good recruitment.

 

The distribution area of northeast arctic cod has expanded during the warm period after 2004. Data obtained from research cruises and the fisheries are influenced by this. It has probably contributed to increasing uncertainty in the stock estimates in recent years.

Causal factors

The size of the cod stock is influenced by natural conditions, like the sea temperature and the occurrence of predators, in addition to human impacts, where fishing is most important.

The agreed quota for 2019 is 725,000 tonnes. This is higher than the advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), which is based on the revised catch rule for 2016. For 2018, the quota agreed upon was 775,000 tonnes, which was 63,000 tonnes higher than the advice from ICES.

The total international catch in 2017 was 868,000 tonnes. The Norwegian catch was 357,000 tonnes. The fishery in 2017 is considered sustainable.

Other cod fishing nations are ranked as follows:

  • Russia
  • The Faeroes
  • Great Britain
  • Spain
  • Greenland
  • Iceland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Belarus
  • Estonia

About 70% of the annual catch is taken by bottom trawls, the rest with nets, lines, seine nets and jigging.

Consequences

In its recommendation concerning the quota for 2017, ICES classified the stock as having good reproductive capacity and being harvested sustainably. The size of the spawning stock has been above the precautionary level since 2002. Fishing mortality has been substantially reduced from well above the critical level in 1999 to below the precautionary level as of 2008. The last years it has increased again and reached the precautionary level in 2017.

Low fishing pressure has helped to keep the stock at a high level, and additionally, good access of food and comparatively high temperatures have contributed to several years of good stocks of cod and haddock in the Barents Sea at present. The rise in temperature has given the fish a larger habitat and increased access to food.

About the monitoring

The indicator aims at presenting the size of the spawning stock of northeast arctic cod in the Barents Sea over time. The stock is monitored by Norwegian (www.imr.no) and Russian (www.pinro.ru) institutes of marine research. The estimations of spawning stock size is conducted once every year, and is based on historical catch data and data from research cruises.

 

Norwegian and Russian institutes of marine research contributes through the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), giving advices to the Norwegian-Russian Fishery Commission on management of the stock of northeast arctic cod in the Barents Sea.

Places and areas

Relations to other monitoring

Monitoring programme
International environmental agreements
Voluntary international cooperation
Related monitoring