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A good year for whitefish supplies 2 minutes

  Jul 06, 2016

It’s been a fine start to 2016 for European whitefish supplies, with more prime-quality Atlantic cod and haddock being made available to the market than last year — particularly from its two biggest sources, the Barents Sea and Icelandic fisheries.

Europe’s increased cod supply will mainly come from Iceland as a result of the country’s 10% higher harvest control rule (HCR) of 239,000 metric tons for the 2015/2016 quota year. According to government statistics, the country landed 253,789 metric tons of cod in the last 12 months (May 2015–April 2016), an increase of 6% year-on-year.

Meanwhile, the joint Norwegian-Russian Fisheries Commission set the Barents Sea cod quota for 2016 at 894,000 metric tons, in accordance with advice given by the International Council for Exploration of the Seas (ICES). This total allowable catch (TAC) is the same as last year.

Within this fishery, Norway is Europe’s main supplier. Its share of the current Barents Sea TAC is 401,240 metric tons — again the same as last year. The main catching season for the Scandinavian country occurs January through April, with a large number of vessels from the entire coastline participating in the fishery, although the greatest volumes are harvested from around the Lofoten islands in the north of the country.

Pittman Seafoods sources both single- and double-frozen Atlantic cod from Iceland, Norway and Russia, and offers fish that has been certified according the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) sustainable fisheries standard as well as un-certified products.


The picture looks just as good for haddock, with substantial increases in both the Barents Sea and Icelandic quotas this year, reversing recent declining supply trends in both fisheries.

For the 2015/2016 quota year, Icelandic fishermen are permitted to catch 40,000 metric tons of haddock, up almost 10,000 metric tons on the previous season. Again, government statistics highlight that they caught 41,735 metric tons of haddock in the past 12 months, up 19% year-on-year. In total, Iceland’s demersal catch grew 6% in this period to 450,586 metric tons.

The Barents Sea haddock quota for 2016 has been set 21,000 metric tons higher at 244,000 metric tons, well ahead of ICES’ advice of 223,000 metric tons. This TAC is more than 65,000 metric tons higher than just two years ago. Of this year’s haddock TAC, Norway’s share will be 118,700 metric tons and Russia will have 125,300 metric tons.


There’s also good reason for optimism in the North Sea, where, thanks to considerable conservation efforts by the fishing industry and other stakeholders, cod stocks are no longer regarded as critically endangered.

From a peak of 270,000 metric tons of mature cod in the 1970s, North Sea stocks plummeted to just 44,000 metric tons in 2006, but had rebounded to a level of around 149,000 metric tons last year.

With the populations expected to continue to rise, the fishery is being prepared for assessment against the MSC standard that could result in certification as early as next year.

The shared EU-Norway North Sea TACs for cod and haddock have increased this year to 33,651 metric tons and 61,933 metric tons, respectively.


From a global perspective, the total supply of Atlantic cod will increase from 1,292,000 metric tons last year year to 1,297,000 metric tons in 2016, according to the latest estimates from the Groundfish Forum. At the same time, the haddock supply will rise to 366,000 metric tons from 342,000 metric tons last year.

Last, but by no means least, the global pollock catch is forecasted to climb by 150,000 metric tons to 3,505,000 metric tons this year. Most of Pittman’s pollock is caught in the Northeast and Northwest Pacific.