Haddock is sold year-round; fresh whole, head-on, and headed and gutted; frozen whole headed and gutted, as skin-on fillets, and as blocks. Value-added haddock that’s breaded or smoked is also available. Haddock’s thin connective tissue layer and finer flake differentiates it from cod. Haddock size differentiations are usually identified as snapper haddock (1.5lbs), scrod (1.5-2lbs.), and large(>2.5lbs). Haddock has a slightly sweet taste and lean, white meat that becomes whiter when cooked. Haddock can be used as a substitute for Atlantic cod, monkfish, or sea bass.
Key sustainability sourcing notes for haddock based on landings data from 2014-2016 and the most recent Seafood Watch assessments and MSC certifications as of February, 2019:
~85% of global haddock landings are MSC-certified
~85% of global haddock landings are from four countries (~30% Norway, ~30% Russia, ~15% Iceland, and ~10% U.K.); Canada and U.S. make up ~5% and ~1% of global landings respectively
~100% of U.S. landings meet a Seafood Watch "Good Alternative (yellow)" rating
>95% of U.S. landings come through Massachusetts and ~90% of current landings are from Georges Bank stock and ~10% from Gulf of Maine stock
Global haddock landings in 2016 increased ~20% from 2014 landings, but are ~20% decrease from 2012 landings
U.S. haddock landings in 2016 increased ~10% from 2014 landings, and are ~150% increase from 2012 landings
In 2015, U.S. landings of haddock was only ~20% of the total allowable catch (TAC)
Haddock are a member of the cod family, distinguishable by a black spot, resembling a thumbprint, found on either side of their body. They are a smaller size than Atlantic cod but grow quickly, weighing between two and seven pounds, and reach one to three feet (30 cm to 91 cm) in length. They reach maturity between one and four years old and can live to over 10 years old; however, most are caught between three and seven years in age.
Spawning season occurs between January and June. An averaged-sized female can produce around 850,000 eggs, and a larger female can produce upwards of three million eggs. The eggs are released near the ocean floor, where a male will fertilize them. After fertilization, the eggs rise to the surface and drift with the current for about a month, until they hatch. The larvae remain near the surface for 30-45 days, before settling near the bottom.
Haddock feed on bottom-dwelling creatures, including mollusks, worms, crustaceans, and sea stars. Adults are known to also eat small fish such as herring. Haddock are preyed upon by many groundfish species such as cod, pollock, monkfish, halibut, etc. Marine mammals such as grey seals also prey upon adult haddock.
Haddock are found in both the eastern and western North Atlantic. In the western North Atlantic, they range from the Strait of Belle Isle, Newfoundland to Cape May, New Jersey. They are abundant in the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank – being more abundant in the latter. Haddock can inhabit depths between 32 and 656 feet (10 and 200 meters) deep but are more commonly found in waters between 130 to 500 feet (40 to 152 meters) deep. They prefer temperatures below 45 degrees Fahrenheit (seven degrees Celsius). Haddock are demersal and live near the sea bottom generally around gravel, pebbles, clay, hard sand, and shell-based seabeds. Juveniles will inhabit shallower waters than adults and will occur near bank or shoal areas. Adults inhabit deeper waters, but each spring will move into shallower waters to spawn.
Science & Management
Collaboration between the Atlantic Marine Aquaculture Centre, University of New Hampshire, and NOAA Fisheries scientists have discovered that haddock grow well in open ocean aquaculture systems. They have been raising and studying stocks of Atlantic cod, halibut, haddock, flounder, and mussels since 1998. The fish have low mortality rates, no incidence of disease or escape, and no detected impact on the surrounding environment. Research on feed formulation and maturation control is needed to improve growth rates.
A 2016 study done in Norway at the Institute of Marine Research in Bergen and the Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES) in Oslo, in collaboration with NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Centre in Seattle, found that exposure to crude oil causes deformities in the heart and skull of haddock. Brief exposure of haddock eggs to low concentrations can cause developmental problems and can be fatal for developing fish. Haddock eggshells contain a unique protein that makes them especially vulnerable to oil, unlike the eggs of other fish species; however, oil byproducts can still cause deformities in most fish. Physiological channels that signal muscles in the heart and head of fish are disrupted by the oil compounds, and influence the development of bones connected to the muscles. Oil spills in areas with haddock and haddock eggs can lead to lasting impacts on the population and species that feed on haddock.
NOAA Fisheries and the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) manage the US haddock fishery under the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan (FMP). Implemented in 1986 to reduce fishing mortality on heavily fished groundfish stocks, the FMP and its subsequent amendments covers 20 stocks from 13 different species including haddock, Atlantic cod, Atlantic pollock, winter flounder, and other groundfish. Grouping these species together as one FMP allows the NEFMC to more effectively manage these species as they are often targeted using the same gear types in the same locations.
Management measures for Haddock as outlined by the Northeast Multispecies FMP include:
Time and area closures to control fishing pressure and to protect spawning populations and sensitive habitats;
Gear modifications – specifically size restrictions and requirements that mesh on trawl nets be large enough to let small, juvenile fish escape;
Annual catch limits on the amount of groundfish that can be caught as well as bycatch limits; and,
Size limits to ensure juveniles can spawn at least once before capture.
Additionally, fishers can participate in an optional catch share program that allows vessels to fish together in sectors. Those fishers whom participate in the catch share are exempt from certain gear and areas restrictions, but must stop fishing once their sector catches their pre-determined allocation of fish. Participating in the catch share allows fishers to choose when, where, and how they fish and allows for more flexibility in targeting stocks that are not overfished.
Fishers operating in the Northeast Multispecies Fishery must follow management measures as outline in the Harbor Porpoise and Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plans to reduce interactions as well as unintended catch of marine mammals. These measures include gear restrictions, seasonal closures, and having acoustic alarms on nets. New England fishers often implement other voluntary measures to reduce marine mammal interactions such as reducing vessel turns and tow times during night fishing and increased communication between vessels when marine mammals are spotted in the area.
Commercial landings for haddock were valued at US $11.5 million in 2014. 2015 stock assessments indicate that both the Georges Bank and Gulf of Maine stock are not overfished nor subject to overfishing.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada manages the Canadian haddock fishery. The majority of the Canadian haddock stock and as such, commercial fishing, occurs in eastern Georges Bank – a transboundary resource between the US and Canada. The two countries collaboratively manage this stock through the Canada-United States Transboundary Management Guidance Committee that was established in 2000. In 2004 Canada and the US implemented a formal quota-sharing agreement to share the Georges Bank haddock harvest. The agreement includes a total allowable catch for each country and in-season monitoring for the US haddock catch.
Haddock are primarily fished in the U.S. and Canada along the North Atlantic. A smaller fishery exists in Iceland as well. Haddock matures at a young age and has a moderate lifespan, making it fairly resilient to fishing pressure. Starting in the late 1970s, North Atlantic haddock stocks began to be overfished and then crashed in the 1990s. Recovery didn’t begin until the late 1990s. Currently Georges Bank haddock are fished at a sustainable level, although fishing pressure in the Gulf of Maine remains too high, according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Haddock stock is a moderate concern in Iceland.
Habitat impacts (Wild)
Most haddock in Canada, the U.S., and Iceland is caught with bottom trawl gear, which can harm the seafloor. A small amount of North American haddock is caught with hook and line, the most sustainable method for catching haddock because it minimizes bycatch and preserves the seafloor.
Bycatch is a serious concern in this fishery, mostly consisting of Atlantic cod and cusk. In Canada, overfished cod have “special concern” status and cusk are “threatened.” Other bycatch includes yellowtail, winter flounder, and white hake. Some fishermen use an eight-foot mesh in the front end of their nets called a haddock rope trawl or eliminator trawl that allows cod and other fish to escape, reducing bycatch.
The Atlantic haddock fishery is considered effectively managed. In the United States, haddock are managed by the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan, which includes area closures, equipment restrictions, minimum catch size, total allowable catch requirements, as well as a cap on bycatch. An amendment in 2010 expanded catch-share management and increased operational efficiency, according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Internationally, haddock falls under the International Council for the Exploration for the Sea. Management of the haddock fishery in Iceland is considered moderately effective.