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Cod (Gadus morhua)

19.03.2013 // The North East arctic cod is estimated to be four times larger than it was 25 years ago. This development would not have been possible without the close and constructive fisheries cooperation between Russia and Norway.

In Norway we have two management plans for the cod. One for the North East arctic cod in the Barents Sea, and one for the North Sea cod.

North East arctic cod

The North-East Arctic cod stock is the largest cod stock in the world, and is in very good condition. The North East Arctic cod is managed together with Russia. The Joint Norwegian-Russian Fisheries Commission has adopted rules for setting annual total allowable catch of cod. ICES has evaluated the rule and concluded that it is in agreement with the Precautionary Approach. For 2004-2008 the quota has been set according to this rule. However, as a result of the stock’s good condition the Commission have since 2009 increased the quota more than the 10 per cent rule. 

For 2013 the quota was set to 1 million tons.

Management and technical regulations of the fishery

Due to efficient control measures and international cooperation, the IUU fishing has decreased and has since 2009 been close to zero. Parts of the international catch control systems have not been fully efficient, and considerable amounts of unreported catches in excess of quotas was revealed for the years 2002-2007. International effort is made to solve these problems, and the introduction of the port state control regime in the North Atlantic from 1st of May 2007 has probably been the main reason for the strong decrease in unreported catches.

In addition to quota regulations there are regulations aiming at protecting young fish; minimum catching size (44 cm in Norwegian waters), sorting grid with minimum bar spacing in groundfish trawl, and minimum mesh size in trawl, Danish seine and gill net. If catches contain more than 15 per cent (by numbers) of undersized fish that particular fishing ground is temporarily closed. Discarding of commercial species is not allowed. By-catches of cod in other fisheries are covered by the total cod quota. By-catches of cod in the shrimp trawl fishery are minimized by use of sorting grid and by closing areas. Due to the use of sorting grids and large meshes by-catches of non-commercial species are low, and mainly consist of dab, sharks and rays. By-catches of sea mammals are rare. A 20 nautical mile zone around Bear Island and areas with corals are permanently closed for fishing.


One of the most important species in the north east cod diet is the capelin. The cod feeds on the capelin when it moves towards the shore to spawn. In poor capelin years there may be a decrease in the cod stock.

The main nursery and feeding areas for Northeast Arctic cod are in the Barents Sea, in sea temperatures above 0 degrees C (south of the polar front). The main spawning areas are along the Norwegian coast north of 67°N, occasionally some spawning occurs south to 62°N. The main spawning period is March-April. 

About the fishery

The cod fishery is conducted all year, but is most intense in the first half of the year. In winter/spring the southern Barents Sea and coastal areas are most important, while during autumn the area along the polar front, like the Bear Island–Hopen area, is important.

In the Norwegian fishery various gears are used. In a typical year the Norwegian catch is made up of about 30 per cent from bottom trawl, 30 per cent from gill net, 15 per cent from longline, 15 per cent from Danish seine and 10 per cent from hand line. 

The North Sea cod

The North Sea cod is managed together with the EU. The North Sea cod stock is in a very poor condition. ICES assume that the stock has a reduced reproductive capability hence the non-sustainable fishery.

The fishing mortality declined from 2000 to 2007, but increased substantial in 2008 as a result of high grading and discards. In Norwegian waters, the minimum catching size is 40 cm, while EU has a minimum landing size of 35 cm (40 cm in Denmark). There is no minimum catching size in EU waters. As a result, fishermen in EU waters has been discarding undersized fish and over quota fish. There will be new regulations in EU waters that will prevent discarding.

A new management plan was introduced in 2009 and ICES follows this when giving advices. For 2013 the quota was set to 26 475 tons.

Bestandskart nordøstarktisk torsk/North east Arctic cod

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