Haddock slowly rebounding

Haddock is a marine fish distributed on both sides of the North Atlantic. It is sometimes called offshore hake. It is a delicious and popular food fish and is consequently widely fished industrially and an important commercial species.

Haddock

Haddock

This pretty fish, easily recognized by a black line running along its white side, is listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN. Reaching sizes of up to 110 cm, haddock is fished year round.

The legal landing size is just 30cm and thus many individuals are caught at a very small size. Some of the methods used are Danish seine nets, trawlers, long lines and simple fishing nets. They are caught in mixed fisheries that also target other highly depleted stocks such as cod and whiting and are associated with a very high bycatch of cod and juvenile haddock – up to 50 per cent of the catch.

Spawning occurs between January and June, with peak activity during late March and early April and is concentrated on the eastern Georges Bank, to the east of Nantucket Shoals, and along the Maine coast.

Growth and maturation rates of haddock have changed significantly over the past 30 to 40 years. During the early 1960s, all females age four and older were fully mature, and approximately 75 per cent of age three females were mature.

Presently, growth is more rapid, with haddock reaching 18.9 to 19.7 in (48 to 50 cm) at age three. Nearly all age three and 35 per cent of age two females are mature. Although early maturing fish increase spawning stock biomass, the degree to which these younger fish contribute to reproductive success of the population is uncertain.

As an endangered species, haddock is not one that should be fished nor consumed commercially. There have been however, observed increases in the spawning stock biomass of Georges Bank haddock, which have resulted from the conservation of existing year classes. This is a necessary first step in the stock rebuilding process.

Recent research vessel surveys provide indications that the 1998 year class may now be the strongest in two decades. If this recruitment is realized, there is a potential for significant stock rebuilding.

Continued conservation of remaining stocks will support this upward trend and has the potential to one day bring Haddock back from the brink of commercial extinction.

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