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:
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
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Legislation on EU management of stocks (EUR-Lex)
Legislation on TAC and quotas (EUR-Lex)
Recovery of cod stocks (summaries of EU legislation)
The EU organised and hosted a three-day meeting for scientists from the 10 signatories to the Agreement to Prevent Unregulated High Seas Fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean. The meeting took place from 11 to 13 February 2020 at the EU Joint Research Centre in Ispra (Italy). The agreement will ban unregulated fisheries in the high seas portion of the Central Arctic Ocean for 16 years. During this period, a scientific research and monitoring programme will be put in place. At the meeting, scientists discussed concrete ways to implement this programme.
The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) has developed a remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) used in maritime surveillance operations.
The European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) has published three compliance evaluation reports on the implementation of the landing obligation. These reports confirm that non-compliance with the landing obligation has been widespread in the North Sea and North Western Waters for specific fisheries during the evaluation period (2015 to 2017). The failure to enforce the landing obligation is a matter of serious concern to the European Commission and jeopardises the objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) which includes ensuring the long-term environmental sustainability of fishing activities and the gradual elimination of discards.