Atlantic Cod, North Sea, Demersal otter trawl

Gadus morhua
Content last updated
11 November 2019
Stock
Cod (Gadus morhua) in Subarea 4, Division 7.d, and Subdivision 20 (North Sea, eastern English Channel, Skagerrak)
Management
European Union
Stock Status
5 of 5
Very high risk
Management
3 of 5
Moderate risk
Bycatch
3 of 5
Moderate risk
Habitat
4 of 5
High risk

Stock status

5 of 5
Very high risk

North Sea cod has been scored a very high risk. This is because this year’s ICES advice places the stock outside safe biological limits.

Fishing mortality decreased from very high levels in the period from 2003 to 2013 and from 2012 until 2016 it was stable above the at risk level (Fpa). However, since 2016 the fishing mortality has increased and is now assessed as outside safe biological limits (above Flim). Although the spawning stock biomass has been on an upward trajectory since 2006 the most recent assessment indicates that this increase plateaued in 2015-6 and has shown a downward trajectory since to being outside safe biological limits (below Blim) in 2019. 

The recruitment of young fish has been low since 1998 and in 2018 is estimated to be very low.

Management

3 of 5
Moderate risk

The management of the North Sea cod has been scored a moderate risk. The stock is assessed annually by ICES, and control measures over the past decade seemed to be allowing the stock to recover. However, the recent trend in spawning stock biomass has been downwards resulting in advice for a 61% reduction in Total Allowable Catch (TAC).

There is some uncertainty as to the effect of the implementation of the Landings Obligation has on control and accounting for catches.

Bycatch

3 of 5
Moderate risk

The bycatch risk of this fishery has been scored a moderate risk. This is because the fishery has potential to take and discard at risk stocks such as West of Scotland and North Sea cod.  A range of measures and/or incentives are in place to manage the fisheries, these measures, where adopted, will act to improve the selectivity of the fishery for some other species taken in the same fisheries depending on size and behaviour.

Habitat

4 of 5
High risk

The habitat risk of this fishery is scored as a high risk because otter trawls are considered to have the potential to cause significant adverse effects especially to deeper water habitats. This is because, although otter trawls are considered to have the potential to cause significant adverse impacts, the risk of impact is to some extent mitigated by the fact that the ‘core’ otter trawl fisheries are spatially well defined and there has been a significant reduction in effort in this fishery over recent decades.   Spatial management measures have been implemented by Regional Fisheries Management Organisations to reduce potential impacts to deep water vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) and habitats through the establishment of bottom fishery closures. However, not all deep water VME has been identified and protected through closures so it is likely that some sensitive seabed habitats remain at risk of bottom trawling impacts.