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 the 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 of Northeast Arctic cod in the Barents Sea

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The graph shows the estimated stock of Northeast Arctic cod.

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 1946-2020.

The spawning stock in 2021 was estimated to be 900,000 tonnes. This is far above the action limit set by fisheries management. The spawning stock is important to ensure good recruitment.

Causal factors

The size of the cod stock is affected both by natural conditions such as sea temperature and presence of predators, as well as human influence. Fishing is the most significant impact.

The agreed quota for 20222 is 708,480 tonnes. This is identical with the advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), which is based on the revised catch rule for 2016. 

The total international catch in 2020 was 693,000 tonnes. The Norwegian catch was 289,000 tonnes. The fishery in 2020 was considered sustainable.

Other cod fishing nations are ranked as follows: Russia, The Faroe Islands, Great Britain, Spain, Iceland, Greenland, Germany, France, Poland, Portugal, Belarus and Estonia.

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

Consequences

In its recommendation concerning the quota for 2022, 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.

Fish 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 in 2020 it was just above the precautionary level.

Low fishing pressure has helped to keep the stock at a high level, and additionally, good access to food and relatively high temperatures have contributed to several years of good stocks of cod and haddock in the Barents Sea.

In previous years,  a rise in temperature has given the fish a larger habitat and increased access to food. But in recent years, the distribution area in the Barents Sea has been reduced. This is due to both lower sea temperatures and a decline in the stock.

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 are conducted once every year and is based on historical catch data and data from research cruises.

Norwegian and Russian institutes of marine research contribute through the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), giving advice 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