Last updated 29 September 2022

The spawning stock (Gadus morhua) of northeast arctic cod is at a high level. The northeast arctic cod is the largest cod stock in the world.

Stock of northeast arctic cod
Photo: Stein Ø. Nilsen / Norwegian Polar Institute

What is being monitored?

Stock of Northeast Arctic cod in the Barents Sea

The graph shows the estimated stock of Northeast Arctic cod.
(Cite these data: Institute of Marine Research (2022). Stock of Northeast Arctic cod in the Barents Sea. Environmental monitoring of Svalbard and Jan Mayen (MOSJ). URL:

Details on these data

Last updated29 September 2022
Update intervalYearly
Next updateSeptember 2023
Commissioning organizationMinistry of Trade, Industry and Fishery
Executive organizationInstitute of Marine Research
Contact personsGro van der Meeren


The SAM (State-space Assessment Model, see Nielsen and Berg 2014), a standard method used by ICES, is used to calculate the size of the cod stock. In addition to the catch statistics (the number of fish caught in the various age groups), the calculations include 4 series of abundance indices (relative measurements) from research cruises. The cruise indices constitute the bottom trawl index from the Norwegian-Russian cruise in the Barents Sea in February, and a combination of the acoustic index from this cruise and the acoustic index from spawning stock investigations in the Lofoten area in March-April. The bottom trawl index from the Russian cruise in the Barents Sea in November–December and from the Norwegian-Russian ecosystem cruise in August-September is also included. Cannibalism (the number of cod eaten by cod) is also included in the calculations.


The extent of the Northeast Arctic cod stock expanded in the warm period after 2004. Basis for the data both from research cruises and the fisheries is influenced by this. This has probably contributed to an increased uncertainty in stock estimations.

Other metadata

International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) has databases with stock data.

Reference level and action level

The reference level is the precautionary limit for the spawning stock: 460 000 tonnes.

Action level for the spawning stock is: 460 000 tonnes.

Status and trend

Both the total stock and the spawning stock have grown since 2006 and peaked in 2013. Since then there has been a decline, but both the total stock and the spawning stock is still well above the long term average for 1946-2018. The spawning stock in 2019 was estimated to be 1.5 million tonnes. This is far above the action limit set by fisheries management. The spawning stock is important to ensure good recruitment.

Causal factors

The size of the cod stock is influenced by natural conditions, like the sea temperature and the occurrence of predators, in addition to human impacts, where fishing is most important.

The agreed quota for 2010 is 738,000 tonnes. This is 48,000 tonnes higher than the advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), which is based on the revised catch rule for 2016. For 2019, the quota agreed upon was 725,000 tonnes, which was 50,000 tonnes higher than the advice from ICES.

The total international catch in 2018 was 778,000 tonnes. The Norwegian catch was 334,000 tonnes. The fishery in 2018 was considered sustainable.

Other cod fishing nations are ranked as follows:

  • Russia
  • The Faroe Islands
  • Great Britain
  • Spain
  • Greenland
  • Iceland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Belarus
  • Estonia

About 70% of the annual catch is caught by bottom trawls, the rest with nets, lines, seine nets and jigging.


In its recommendation concerning the quota for 2020, ICES classified the stock as having good reproductive capacity and being harvested sustainably. The size of the spawning stock has been above the precautionary level since 2002. Fishing mortality has been substantially reduced from well above the critical level in 1999 to below the precautionary level as of 2008. The last years it has increased again and was at the precautionary level in 2018.

Low fishing pressure has helped to keep the stock at a high level, and additionally, good access to food and relatively high temperatures have contributed to several years of good stocks of cod and haddock in the Barents Sea. The rise in temperature has given the fish a larger habitat and increased access to food.

About the monitoring

The indicator aims at presenting the size of the spawning stock of northeast arctic cod in the Barents Sea over time. The stock is monitored by Norwegian ( and Russian ( institutes of marine research. The estimations of spawning stock size is conducted once every year, and is based on historical catch data and data from research cruises.

Norwegian and Russian institutes of marine research contributes through the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), giving advices to the Norwegian-Russian Fishery Commission on management of the stock of northeast arctic cod in the Barents Sea.

Places and areas

Relations to other monitoring

Monitoring programme

  • Monitoring programme for the Barents Sea Management Plan (monitoring group)

International environmental agreements

Voluntary international cooperation

  • None

Related monitoring

  • None

Further reading



  1. Darby, C.S., and Flatman, S. 1994.Virtual Population Analysis: version 3.1 (Windows/DOS) user guide, Ministry of Agriculture, fisheries and food, Directorate of Fisheries Research, Lowestoft, 1994.
  2. Frøysa, K.G., Bogstad, B., and Skagen, D.W. 2002. Fleksibest – an age-length structured fish stock assessment modell. Fisheries Research 55: 87–101.
  3. ICES 2002. Report of the Arctic Fisheries Working Group, ICES Headquarters 16-25 April 2002. ICES CM 2002/ACFM:18.
  4. Jakobsen, T., Korsbrekke, K., Mehl, S. and Nakken, O. 1997. Norwegian combined acoustic and bottom trawl surveys for demersal fish in the Barents Sea during winter. ICES CM 1997/Y: 17, 26 pp.
  5. Mehl, S., and Yaragina, N. A. 1992. Methods and results in the joint PINRO-IMR stomach sampling program. In: Bogstad, B. and Tjelmeland, S. (eds.), Interrelations between fish populations in the Barents Sea. Proceedings of the fifth PINRO-IMR Symposium. Murmansk, 12–16 August 1991. Institute of Marine Research, Bergen, Norway, 5–16.