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Key fishery facts

Haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus) is the most important demersal whitefish species to Scottish Fishermen. There are three stocks, North Sea, West coast and Rockall which all contribute to Scottish landings. In 2011 approximately 24,003 tonnes of haddock were landed into Scotland by Scottish vessels, worth £30.4 million. Haddock accounts for 23% of all demersal whitefish landings into Scotland by the Scottish fleet.

The North Sea fishery is by far the most significant; around 90% of haddock is landed into North Sea ports. A variety of types of trawl nets and seine nets are used to catch haddock throughout the year both from inshore and offshore waters. Its commercial significance is well recognised and the Scottish industry has gained Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification for the North Sea haddock stock.

You can download a pdf species information guide here.

Tab Biology

The species is widely distributed in the waters around Scotland at depths usually less than 200m, although Rockall haddock can be found down to depths of 600m. Fish mature between 2 and 3 years old and spawn from February to May, each releasing several hundred thousand eggs. Larvae do not generally drift far from the spawning grounds althoughsome west coast larvae are carried to the North Sea and this suggests there may be links between these two populations.

Rockall haddock are believed to be a separate stock from those found on the continental shelf, with no mixing of populations due to the northward flowing surface current between Rockall and the Hebrides acting as a barrier. Young haddock spend some time near the surface before becoming demersal in habit. Survival rate is very variable and recruitment is characterised by occasional pulses of very large numbers of young.

The diet of haddock varies with the size of the fish, the time of year, and with the area. In the winter months haddock of all sizes feed mainly on worms, small molluscs, sea urchins and brittle stars. In the spring and summer fish prey are important, particularly for the larger haddock. The type of fish prey reflects the local availability, with Norway pout being the most common fish eaten in the more northerly areas, whereas sandeels are more important in the central North Sea.

haddock sp

hadd ns hadd ws hadd roc



State of stocks

North Sea

Fishing mortality in 2010 is estimated to be 0.23: this means that approximately 20%, by number, of all fish between 2 and 4 years of age were caught. The Spawning Stock Biomass (SSB) is estimated to be above the precautionary reference point (Bpa) and above the Maximum Sustainable Yield trigger point (MSY Btrigger). In 2011 the SSB is estimated to be at around 235,000 tonnes. The fishing mortality is below the level and biomass above the level which is consistent in achieving maximum sustainable yield (F2010

hadd ss ns

The advice is in accordance with the long-term management plan which recommends human consumption landings in 2012 of 41,575 tonnes for areas IIIa (Skagerrak) and IV.

West of Scotland

Fishing mortality in 2010 has been estimated at about 0.29: this means that approximately 20%, by number, of all fish between 2 and 6 years of age were caught. The relatively strong 2006 and 2009 year classes have contributed to a rise in the spawning stock biomass (SSB) for 2011. This is estimated to just be below the precautionary biomass limit reference point (Blim). In 2011 this SSB was at 20,800 tonnes.

Fishing mortality and biomass are both below their precautionary limits. However, fishing mortality is just below the level which is consistent with achieving maximum sustainable yield.

hadd ss ws

The advice is in accordance with the MSY approach which recommends landings in 2012 of 10,200 tonnes for haddock in Division VIa.


Since 2007, fishing mortality has steadily decreased and for 2010 was estimated at 0.15: this means that nearly 14%, by number, of all fish between 2 and 5 years of age were caught. The spawning stock biomass (SSB) has increased in recent years and has been above the precautionary reference point (Bpa) since 2003. For 2011 the SSB was estimated to be around 13,000 tonnes. Fishing mortality is below the precautionary approach limits and the biomass is above the precautionary approach limits, and at the level which is consistent with achieving maximum sustainable yield (F2010 < FMSY).

hadd ws roc

The advice is in accordance with the MSY approach which recommends human consumption landings in 2012 of 3,300 tonnes from Division VIb.


In the North Sea adherence to the EU-Norway management plan has contributed to lower fishing mortality levels, increased yield and greatly improved stability of yield. ICES evaluated the original management plan in 2007 and then the revised plan in 2008 (which allowed for interannual catch variation, or "banking and borrowing" of quota), and concluded that this plan could be accepted as precautionary and could be used as the basis for advice. The industry's perception is of increasing haddock abundance in all areas of the North Sea in 2011. This is in line with scientific surveys, except for the southern North Sea where research vessel survey data do not show an increase.

For the West coast, a management plan is under development. It is not yet in operation and has still to be fully evaluated by ICES, therefore stock advice is not yet based on this plan. The management plan should offer maximum protection to the haddock while recognising that they are caught in a mixed fishery. Attention should be given to the sporadic nature of recruitment in to the stock and how to manage the periods of poor recruitment interspersed with the larger, occasional pulses. In recent years around 50% of the total catch in weight has been discarded, so restricting landings alone may not achieve the necessary increase in SSB.

Discarding of haddock remains stubbornly high, with the majority of these fish discarded being one year olds. In 2010 the Nephrops fleet is estimated to have discarded approximately seven times that of the demersal fish fleet. The advice explicitly states that: "The selection pattern should be improved in the Nephrops fleet to reduce its high proportion of discards." Any measure to reduce discarding and to improve the fishing pattern should be actively encouraged.

The EU and Russia have developed a management plan for this stock that is currently being evaluated by ICES. For the time being, the Russian fleet is not limited by any quota regulation, although in recent years very few Russian vessels have fished at Rockall.

To increase the chance that the spawning stock remains above Bpa ICES has recommended that the precautionary approach rate of fishing mortality not be used, but the MSY framework rate of 0.30 be utilised. For 2012 the spawning stock biomass is estimated to be at Bpa but the incoming recruitment over the last five years has been low. There is a high probability that this could lead to the spawning stock biomass decreasing to levels below Bpa in the near future.


At the December 2011 meeting in Brussels, the Council of Ministers of the EU set the Total Allowable Catches for haddock as follows:

                                   Total 2012 TAC              UK TAC Share   

                                   (tonnes)                       (tonnes)

North Sea                     30,132                          25,386

West of Scotland            6,015                           4,683

Rockall                         3,300                           2,660   

The quota decisions for the North Sea and the West of Scotland were in line with the current and proposed haddock management plans for these stocks. For Rockall, the decision was in line with the scientific advice advising a reduction in catch for this stock.

Scientific developments in Scotland

Scotland conducted the evaluation of the harvest rule underpinning the management agreement in the North Sea and subsequent analyses investigating the risk implications of inter annual quota flexibility. The successful maintenance of a relatively low fishing mortality in line with the plan allowed the very abundant 1999 year class of haddock to contribute to the fishery over a number of years. This bridged the gap to the next above average year class in 2005 which has subsequently been maintained until the appearance of the above average 2009 year class.

The EU-Norway haddock management plan was reviewed during 2010, and Scottish scientists took a leading role in this process.

As part of a continued drive to develop scientific methods and understanding; projects related to fishing gear will continue to tackle the problem of reducing unwanted bycatch and discards in fisheries for haddock.

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