Cod (Gadus morhua)
Cod is a cold water fish, which can be found on continental shelves and in coastal waters throughout the north Atlantic. Cod reach sexual maturity at between three and five years, and can live up to 25 years. The heaviest cod ever recorded weighed just under 100kg. Their average size at maturity is around 100 cm, with weights in the 5-12 kg range. Older specimens can measure as much as 200 cm. They are demersal by nature, preferring to live close to the sea bed in waters less than 200 metres deep. In the Baltic Sea, however, their behaviour is pelagic (they inhabit the mid-water) due to the lack of oxygen at lower depths.
Cod in the North East Atlantic is divided by scientists into 14 separate stocks which remain largely separate from one another. Important stocks in European waters include:
- North Sea (including the Skagerrak),
- Eastern Baltic,
- Western Baltic,
- Celtic Sea
- Irish Sea, and
- Western Scotland.
By far the largest cod stock in the NE Atlantic is the Arctic stock, which is found off the coast of Norway. All cod stocks in EU waters have shown significant declines over the last decades due to a range of factors, including overfishing.
While cod can be taken by a wide range of means, including long lines and pots, the commercial catch comes almost entirely from mixed trawl fisheries, in which they are caught alongside other demersal species such as haddock and whiting.
North Sea cod was the first EU fish stock to be brought under long-term management. Today, there are multi-annual plans in place for the following cod stocks
- Kattegat, North Sea, Skagerrak and eastern Channel, the west of Scotland, and the Irish Sea, and
- the Eastern and Western Baltic.