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Northeast arctic cod

Cod is a predatory fish and mainly a demersal fish, but in the Barents Sea it is also to a large extent distributed in the pelagic water masses during some parts of the year. Young cod (age 0-2) feed mainly on zooplankton, while fish and benthic organisms are the main food items for the older cod.

Vesterålen/Lofoten are the main spawning areas for cod. The eggs are spawned pelagically in February-April. Egg and larvae are carried with the current into the Barents Sea, and the 0-group fish settles to the bottom there in late autumn. Most of the stock is found in the Barents Sea, on the warm side of the Polar Front, reaching to 76°N and 50°E. In warm years the cod distribution extends farther to the north and east. In autumn 2007, cod was found as far north as 81°N (north of Spitsbergen) and 56°E (southern tip of Novaya Zemlya).

The Northeast Arctic cod stock is the largest cod stock in the world. Other marine cod stocks are found around Iceland, around the Faroes, in the Baltic, the North Sea, the Irish Sea and in the areas around Georges Bank and Newfoundland in the Northwest Atlantic. In addition there are local fjord and coastal stocks along the coasts of Norway, South Greenland and Canada.


The total quota for 2010 was 607 000 tonnes, while the total international catch was 610 000 tonnes. The Norwegian catch in 2010 amounted to 265 000 tonnes.  Other nations fishing on this stock are (ordered by catch volume): Russia, Faroe Islands, Spain, Iceland, United Kingdom, Germany, Greenland, Portugal, France, Belarus and Poland (figure). About 70 % of the annual catch is taken by bottom trawl, while the remaining part is caught by gillnet, long-line, Danish seine and hand-line. The fishing in 2010 is considered to be sustainable.

More northern spawning

An increasing proportion of the mature cod (skrei) is caught north of the traditional main spawning area in Lofoten. Much skrei is now caught along the coast from Lofoten to Sørøya (a traditional spawning area) and also on the coast of West Finnmark.  This is not a new phenomenon, also in the period 1930–1950 there was such a northern distribution of the spawners. This is known from catch statistics (landings of cod and cod roe in different areas along the coast). In the period 1930–1950 the sea temperature was above the long-term mean, which is also the situation at present, and we believe this to be one of the main reasons why the spawning areas have moved northwards.

Facts about Northeast Arctic cod

Latin name: Gadus morhua
Family: Cod family
Maximum size: 169 cm and 55 kg
Distribution: The warm side of the Polar Front in the Barents Sea
Main spawning area: Lofoten/Vesterålen
Spawning time: February-April
Diet: Mainly fish

Map of distribution

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