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Haddock

Melanogrammus aeglefinus

Illustration of a Haddock

Also Known As

  • Scrod

U.S. wild-caught haddock is a smart seafood choice because it is sustainably managed and responsibly harvested under U.S. regulations.

Population

Above target population levels.

Fishing Rate

At recommended levels.

Habitat Impacts

Area closures and gear restrictions protect habitat that are affected by some kinds of trawl gear.

Bycatch

Regulations are in place to minimize bycatch.

  • Availability

    Year-round.

  • Source

    U.S. wild-caught mostly from Maine to New Jersey.

  • Taste

    Slightly sweet.

  • Texture

    Firm yet tender. Its delicate flake is finer than that of cod.

  • Color

    Raw haddock is white and becomes even whiter when cooked.

  • Health Benefits

    Haddock is a great source of low-fat protein, magnesium, and selenium.

The U.S. Fishery

Fishery Management

  • There are two stocks of haddock in U.S. waters, the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank stocks.
  • NOAA Fisheries and the New England Fishery Management Council manage Gulf of Maine haddock; NOAA Fisheries and the New England Fishery Management Council collaborate with Canada to jointly manage Georges Bank haddock, because the stock spans both waters.
  • Haddock, along with other groundfish in New England waters, are managed under the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan, which includes:
    • Permitting requirements for commercial vessels.
    • Separate management measures for recreational vessels.
    • Time/Area Closures to protect spawning fish and habitat.
    • Minimum fish sizes to prevent harvest of juvenile fish.
    • Annual catch limits, based on best available science.
    • An optional sector (catch share) program can be used for cod and other groundfish species. The sector program allows fishermen to form harvesting cooperatives and work together to decide when, where, and how they harvest fish.

 

Harvest

  • Commercial fishery:
    • In 2019, commercial landings of haddock totaled more than 19.2 million pounds and were valued at $18.9 million, according to the NOAA Fisheries commercial fishing landings database.
  • Gear types, habitat impacts, and bycatch:
    • Haddock are commonly harvested using trawl nets, gillnets, bottom longlines, and rod and reel.
    • Gillnets, longlines, and rod and reel used to harvest haddock have little to no impact on habitat.
    • Areas closures and gear restrictions reduce habitat impacts from trawl nets.
    • Fishermen follow management measures to designed to reduce interactions with marine mammals, including gear modifications, seasonal closures, and use of marine mammal deterrents.
  • Recreational fishery:
    • Haddock are highly prized by recreational fishermen. Recreational vessels make up a significant proportion of the harvest in the Gulf of Maine.
    • Haddock are commonly harvested by anglers fishing offshore waters with bait. Fishing occurs year-round.
    • In 2019, recreational anglers landed more than 1.8 million pounds, according to the NOAA Fisheries recreational fishing landings database.  
    • Regulations include seasons, minimum fish sizes and possession limits.

The Science

Population Status

  • There are two stocks of haddock: Georges Bank and Gulf of Maine stocks. According to the most recent stock assessments:

    • The Georges Bank stock is not overfished and is not subject to overfishing (2019 stock assessment). Summary stock assessment information can be found on Stock SMART.

    • The Gulf of Maine stock is not overfished and is not subject to overfishing (2019 stock assessment). Summary stock assessment information can be found on Stock SMART.

Location

  • 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.

Habitat

  • 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.
  • Haddock are most common in waters approximately 130 to 500 feet deep and prefer temperatures below 45° 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.

Physical Description

  • Haddock are a member of the cod family, but they are smaller than Atlantic cod.
  • They can be distinguished by a black “thumbprint” found on each side of their body.
  • Their skin is also less mottled than cod.

Biology

  • 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 catch haddock that are between 3 and 7 years old.
  • They generally weigh between 2 and 7 pounds.
  • Haddock begin to reproduce between the ages of 1 and 4 years old and at 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, worms, crustaceans, sea stars, sea urchins, sand dollars, brittle stars, and occasional fish eggs.
  • Adults sometimes eat small fish, especially herring.
  • Spiny dogfish, skates, and many groundfish species (cod, pollock, cusk, hake, monkfish, halibut, and sea raven) prey on juvenile haddock. Gray seals also prey on haddock.

Research

  • 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.
  • 2019 Northeast Groundfish Operational Assessments website
  • 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.

Last updated: 03/16/2021