Groundfish, such as haddock and cod, often live together near the ocean floor and are harvested together with trawls. Although some groundfish stocks are overfished and most are strictly managed under rebuilding plans, some fishing is allowed on all of them. To conserve and restore depleted groundfish, such as cod and flounders, while allowing vessels to target haddock and other healthier stocks in the same area, commercial fishermen and researchers collaborated with university and NOAA Fisheries researchers to develop a new type of gear. Their award-winning “haddock rope trawl,” or the “Ruhle or eliminator trawl,” reduces the catch of nontarget fish species in the northeast groundfish fishery by more than 50 percent and is now approved for use in certain areas.
- Gray triggerfish
- Greater amberjack
- Ocean perch
- Sea Bass
- Turbot (Greenland)
ALSO KNOWN AS:
U.S. wild-caught mostly from Maine to New Jersey
- FISHING RATE
- HABITAT IMPACTS
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Haddock collected during a research survey.LAUNCH GALLERY
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, populations of haddock—a popular whitefish related to cod—had dropped to the lowest levels ever recorded for the stocks in the Gulf of Maine and on Georges Bank. Constant overfishing, coupled with years of poor reproduction and survival rates for these stocks, were responsible for haddock’s dramatic decline.
Because haddock can be very productive, they respond to management actions quickly. In the 1990s, both U.S. and Canadian fishery managers enacted a number of conservation measures to decrease harvest rates for haddock on Georges Bank. The 1995 haddock harvest on Georges Bank was the lowest on record, but thanks to strict harvest limits and three fishing area closures the stock began to rebound. In 2003, spawning haddock on Georges Bank produced the largest incoming group of young fish in 40 years. Because of these substantial increases in abundance, the total commercial harvest in 2004 was 7 times larger than the record low level from 1995. The Georges Bank stock is now well above its target population level and is not subject to overfishing.
In the Gulf of Maine, fishery managers closed two areas (the Western Gulf of Maine Closed Area in 1998 and Cashes Ledge in 2002) to most fishing for haddock, flounders, and other groundfish and implemented additional conservation measures to help alleviate fishing pressure and rebuild the depleted haddock stock. Managers closed areas where haddock catches were high (an indicator of high haddock abundance) to improve the stock’s reproduction and survival rates. By the early 2000s, abundance had increased to levels not seen since haddock abundance peaked in the early 1980s. Currently, the Gulf of Maine stock is above its target population level and is no longer subject to overfishing.
Thanks to the successful management of U.S. haddock stocks, fishermen are now able to sustainably harvest this valuable whitefish. In 2013, the U.S. commercial haddock harvest totaled more than 1,800 metric tons, and was valued at more than $6 million. Managers continue to try to identify ways for fishermen to take advantage of healthy haddock stocks while avoiding groundfish stocks that are rebuilding, such as Atlantic cod (See “Looking Ahead”).
LOCATION & HABITAT
Haddock are found on both sides of the North Atlantic. In the western North Atlantic, they’re found from Newfoundland to Cape May, New Jersey, and are most abundant on Georges Bank and in the Gulf of Maine.
Haddock are groundfish – they live near the bottom and prefer habitats of gravel, pebbles, clay, and smooth hard sand. These bottom types are more common on Georges Bank; haddock are more abundant there than in the Gulf of Maine. They’re most common in waters approximately 130 to 500 feet deep and prefer temperatures below 45 degrees F. Juveniles are found in shallower water on bank and shoal areas, while larger adults are more common in deeper water. Adults travel to shallower waters in the spring to spawn.
Haddock are a fast-growing species that typically range between 1 and 3 feet long at maturity. They can live for 10 or more years, although NOAA Fisheries scientists typically capture haddock that are between 3 and 7 years old. Haddock begin to reproduce between the ages of 1 to 4 years old (i.e., 10.5 to 11.7 inches long). They spawn between January and June on eastern Georges Bank, to the east of Nantucket Shoals and along the Maine coast over rock, gravel, sand, or mud bottoms. Haddock are very productive – every year, an average-sized female produces around 850,000 eggs, and larger females can produce up to 3 million eggs. Females release their eggs in batches near the ocean floor, where a courting male fertilizes them. Once fertilized, eggs rise to the surface where they drift with ocean currents. Newly hatched haddock remain near the surface for several months before they settle to the bottom.
Haddock feed on a variety of bottom-dwelling animals, including mollusks, polychaete worms, crustaceans, sea stars, sea urchins, sand dollars, brittle stars, and occasional fish eggs. Adults sometimes eat small fish, especially herring. Elasmobranchs (spiny dogfish and skates) and many groundfish species (cod, pollock, cusk, hakes, monkfish, halibut, and sea raven) prey on juvenile haddock. Gray seals also prey on haddock.
Haddock is a member of the cod family. Haddock is smaller than Atlantic cod, generally weighing between 2 and 7 pounds, and can be distinguished by a black “thumbprint” found on each side of its body. Its skin is also less mottled than cod.
Scientists at NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center conduct bottom trawl surveys every year during the fall and spring in inshore and offshore areas off the northeast coast to monitor the abundance of haddock and other species. They use these data, along with data from surveys conducted by the state fisheries management agencies and fishery statistics, to determine the status of the haddock stocks.
Based on the latest stock assessments, haddock stocks on Georges Bank (2012) and in the Gulf of Maine (2014) are not overfished and are not subject to overfishing.
Through research conducted at the Atlantic Marine Aquaculture Center, University of New Hampshire, and NOAA Fisheries scientists found that haddock is a good candidate for open ocean aquaculture. The fish grew well—from 1/2 ounce to nearly 4 pounds—and further research on feed formulation and maturation control will likely improve growth rates. Mortality was low, and there was no incidence of disease. None of the haddock escaped from the cage, and a rigorous monitoring program detected no impact on the surrounding environment.
Haddock share the same habitat as several other groundfish species in the Northeast. These groundfish are often caught together in the Northeast Multispecies Fishery. Commercial fishermen harvest haddock year-round. The majority of haddock landings are harvested with otter trawls, while the remainder is caught with longlines or gillnets.
Otter trawls can impact habitat and incidentally catch other fish and marine mammals. Fishermen follow a number of measures to reduce any impacts:
- Restrictions on the size of fishing gear in certain areas to reduce habitat impacts.
- Areas closed to fishing year-round or seasonally to protect habitat and spawning fish.
- Requirement that the mesh on trawl nets be large enough to allow small fish to escape.
- A cap on the amount of bycatch that fishing vessels can take.
- Voluntary measures to reduce the chance of interacting with marine mammals, including reducing the amount of turns made by the fishing vessel and tow times while fishing at night, and increasing communication between vessels about the presence of marine mammals in an area.
In some areas, fishermen use a “Ruhle trawl” (also known as a haddock rope trawl or an eliminator trawl) to reduce catch of overfished groundfish, while allowing them to target more abundant stocks such as haddock. Ruhle trawls have a large 8-foot mesh in the forward end of the net, which allows cod and other fish to escape.
Gillnets can unintentionally catch marine mammals, especially harbor porpoise and large cetaceans (whales and dolphins) in New England. Fishermen follow a number of management measures to prevent bycatch in this fishery, including the Harbor Porpoise and Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plans. Measures include gear modifications, seasonal closures, and a requirement to have acoustic alarms on nets to prevent harbor porpoise from getting entangled in gillnets. At-sea fishery observers monitor bycatch in the groundfish fishery.
Who’s in charge? NOAA Fisheries and the New England Fishery Management Council
Current management: Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan
Two major stocks of haddock are located in U.S. waters on Georges Bank and in the Gulf of Maine. Both support year-round commercial fisheries, which are managed as part of the Northeast Multispecies group, a complex of several groundfish species. Management measures include:
- Permitting requirements.
- Time/area closures to control the amount of fishing that may occur and fish that may be harvested, and to protect spawning fish and habitat.
- Minimum size limits to ensure that fish are able to spawn at least once before being caught.
- Limits on the number of days vessels can spend fishing and the amount they can catch per fishing trip. This measure is in place to control the amount of fish that may be caught and to achieve long-term sustainable catch and population levels.
Managers implemented new measures for the Northeast groundfish fishery in 2010 to end overfishing and continue rebuilding overfished Northeast groundfish stocks (and maintain abundant ones). These measures include:
- A limit on the amount of all groundfish that can be caught, as well as measures to respond to overages.
- Optional catch share program – fishing vessels may fish together in groups (sectors), which are established annually and are allocated a portion of the total available groundfish catch, based on the combined fishing history of sector member vessels. Sectors are exempt from many gear and area restrictions but must stop fishing for groundfish once the sector catches their allocation of fish. This allows fishermen more control over where and how they fish and the ability to target healthier stocks rather than overfished stocks. Fishermen who choose not to join a sector fish under the existing system of regulations, with limits on the number of days they can fish, amount they can catch, and when and where they can fish.
The Georges Bank haddock stock is also a transboundary resource, so the United States coordinates management of a portion of this stock with Canada. Fisheries and Oceans Canada manages the Canadian fishery on Georges Bank under an individual quota system. In 2004, Canada and the United States implemented a formal quota-sharing understanding to share the harvest of the transboundary portion of the stock. This understanding includes total allowable catch quotas for each country as well as in-season monitoring of the U.S. catch of haddock on eastern Georges Bank.
In 2013, commercial fishermen harvested 1,869 metric tons of haddock.
Haddock is a valuable whitefish – the 2013 commercial harvest was valued at approximately $6 million.
Recreational landings of Georges Bank haddock are not significant. However, recreational catches of Gulf of Maine haddock have increased in recent years, and between 2006 and 2013 have been fairly equivalent to the commercial landings.
Haddock has a slightly sweet taste. The lean meat is firm yet tender, and its delicate flake is finer than that of cod. Raw haddock is white and becomes even whiter when cooked. The flesh should be firm and resilient and has a thin layer of connective tissue, which helps differentiate it from cod.
Canada, Iceland, Norway, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States are the main suppliers of haddock. The majority of haddock eaten in the United States is caught in U.S. or Canadian fisheries. Haddock is sold fresh (whole, both head-on and headed and gutted; skin-on fillets; or loins), frozen (whole headed and gutted, skin-on fillets, or blocks), and value-added (breaded or smoked).
Haddock is a great source of low-fat protein and is high in magnesium and selenium.
|Serving Weight||100 g (raw)|
|Fat, total||0.72 g|
|Saturated fatty acids, total||0.13 g|
|Sugars, total||0 g|
|Fiber, total dietary||0 g|
Haddock Table of Nutrition