Illustration: Jón Baldur Hlíðberg


Haddock fishing grounds in 2011 (t/nm2), all gear combined. Dark areas indicate highest catches.

Source: The Marine research Institute


Haddock catch (t) in Icelandic waters

Source: ICES, Statistics Iceland


Haddock catch (t) by month

Source: Statistics Iceland, weight reports


Haddock catch (t) by fishing gear

Source: Statistics Iceland, weight reports


Haddock, spawning stock and fishable stock (ages 3+) biomass (thous. t) at spawning time and average fishing mortality (ages 4-7)

Source: The Marine Research Institute


Haddock catch (t) by type of processing

Source: Statistics Iceland, processing reports


Value of exported haddock products by main countries in 2011 (FOB, million ISK)

Source: Statistics Iceland

Scientific: Melangrammus aeglefinus. English: Haddock. Icelandic: Ýsa. For more languages see the Marine Animal Dictionary.

Biology and distribution

The haddock is a rather large codfish, usual size in catches is between 50 and 65 cm long, but the largest individual caught in Icelandic waters measured 112 cm. It is found in abundance all around Iceland. During cold periods it is rather rare in the colder waters off the north coast, but in warmer periods it can be more common in the north than in the south. Mostly it occurs over soft bottoms at depths between 10 and 200 m. It is found in European waters from Spitsbergen and the White Sea in the north to the Bay of Biscay in the south. It also occurs around the Faroe Islands, in southern Greenlandic waters and from Labrador to Cape Cod in North America.

The haddock is primarily a benthic feeder as opposed to the pelagic feeding habits of its close relative, the saithe. Its main food is polychaets and small bivalves that live buried in the sediments. However, when capelin or sandeels are available, the haddock does not refuse to eat them. The life history of the haddock is similar to that of the cod. The main spawning takes place along the south and southwest coasts, from April to May. The eggs and larvae drift with the waters west, north and sometimes east of Iceland where they settle to the bottom and spend the first years of their life. Growth is rather fast during the first two years, considerably faster than for the cod, but sexual maturity is reached at the age of 3 to 4, a year or two earlier than cod. Fishes usually grow slower after sexual maturity and therefore the cod grows faster than the haddock after the age of 3. The oldest recorded haddock in Icelandic waters was 18 years old.

Catch and fishing methods

Haddock is caught all around Iceland and throughout the year. The best grounds are off the west coast and fishing is presently best in the winter months. Haddock is mainly caught by bottom trawl, but an increasing share is taken with longlines and Danish seines. Historically, haddock catches have varied from 30,000 to 70,000 tonnes annually by the Icelandic fleet. A similar amount was taken by foreign fleets when they fished around Iceland, mostly by English trawlers. The haddock both sustains direct fishing effort and is a common bycatch in cod fisheries.

Stock status

See the Marine Research Institute

Processing and markets

The processing methods for haddock are fairly similar as for cod. A large part is filleted and frozen at sea by freezer trawlers or iced at sea and subsequently filleted and frozen in shore based factories. A considerable part is also iced at sea and exported fresh by air or in containers. A small part is dried or salted, but the haddock is not as well suited for salting as the cod. There are two major markets for haddock, the United Kingdom and the United States. A minor share is exported to other countries.

Haddock is the fish most commonly eaten by Icelanders. They for example usually prefer it over cod. This may have historical origins since cod, the most abundant fish, was better suited for salting and therefore better suited for export. The annual domestic consumption of haddock is close to 5,000 tonnes based on catch weight, or 5% of landings. This equals an annual per capita consumption of 16-17 kg of haddock.

References and further information

Hreiðar Þór Valtýsson, University of Akureyri