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The haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus) is a saltwater fish from the family Gadidae, the true cods, it is the only species in the monotypic genus Melanogrammus. It is found in the North Atlantic Ocean and associated seas where it is an important species for fisheries, especially in northern Europe. It is also an important food fish and it is marketed fresh, frozen and smoked; smoked varieties include the Finnan haddie and the Arbroath smokie.

Melanogrammus aeglefinus.png
Haddock, Boston Aquarium.JPG
Haddock at the New England Aquarium
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Gadiformes
Family: Gadidae
Genus: Melanogrammus
T. N. Gill, 1862
M. aeglefinus
Binomial name
Melanogrammus aeglefinus



The haddock has the elongated, tapering body shape typical of members of the cod family.[2] It has a relatively small mouth which does not extend to below the eye; with the lower profile of the face being straight and the upper profile slightly rounded, this gives its snout a characteristic wedge-shaped profile. The upper jaw projects beyond the lower more so than in the Atlantic cod.[3] There is a rather small barbel on the chin.[4] There are three dorsal fins, the first being triangular in shape[5] and these dorsal fins have 14 to 17 fin rays in the first, 20 to 24 in the second, and 19 to 22 in the third. There are also two anal fins and in these there are 21 to 25 fin rays in the first and 20 to 24 fin rays in the second.[3] The anal and dorsal fins are all separated from each other.[6] The pelvic fins are small with an elongated first fin ray.[7] The upper side of the haddock's body varies in colour from dark grey brown to nearly black while the lower part of the body is dull silvery white. It has a distinctive black lateral line contrasting with the whitish background colour and which curves slightly over the pectoral fins. It also has a distinctive oval black blotch or ‘thumbprint’, sometimes called the "Devil's thumbprint",[8] which sits between the lateral line and the pectoral fin,[9] a feature which leads to the name of the genus Melanogrammus which derives from Greek "melanos" meaning "black" and "gramma" meaning letter or signal.[4] The dorsal, pectoral, and caudal fins are dark grey in colour while the anal fins are pale matching the colour of the silvery sides, with black speckles at their bases. The pelvic fins are white with a variable amount of black spots. Occasionally there are differently coloured variants recorded which may be barred, golden on the back or lack the dark shoulder blotch.[3] The longest haddock recorded was 94 centimetres (37 in) in length and weighed 11 kilograms (24 lb), however, haddock are rarely over 80 centimetres (31 in) in length and the vast majority of haddocks caught in the United Kingdom measure between 30 centimetres (12 in) and 70 centimetres (28 in).[9] In eastern Canadian waters haddock range in size from 38 centimetres (15 in) to 69 centimetres (27 in) in length and 0.9 kilograms (2.0 lb) and 1.8 kilograms (4.0 lb) in weight.[8]


The haddock has populations on either side of the north Atlantic but it is more abundant in the eastern Atlantic than it is on the North American side. In the north-east Atlantic it occurs from the Bay of Biscay north to Spitzbergen, however, it is most abundant north of the English Channel. The largest stocks are in the North Sea, off the Faroe Islands, off Iceland and the coast of Norway but these are discrete populations with little interchange between them. Off North America, the haddock is found from western Greenland south to Cape Hatteras, but the main commercially fished stock occurs from Cape Cod and the Grand Banks.[9] It also occurs around Novaya Zemlya and the Barents Sea in the Arctic.[6]

Habitat and biologyEdit

The haddock is a demersal species which occurs at depths from 10 metres (33 ft) to 450 metres (1,480 ft), although it is most frequently recorded at 80 metres (260 ft) to 200 metres (660 ft). It is found over substrates made up of rock, sand, gravel or shells and it prefers temperatures of between 4 °C (39 °F) and 10 °C (50 °F). Off Iceland and in the Barents Sea haddock undergo extensive migrations but in the north western Atlantic its movements are more restricted, consisting of movements to and from their spawning areas. They reach sexual maturity at 4 years old in males and 5 years old in females, except for the population in the North Sea which matures at ages of 2 year in males and 3 years in females. The overall sex ratio is roughly 1:1 but in shallower area, females predominate, while the males show a preference for waters further offshore.[6]

The fecundity of the females varies with size, a fish of 25 centimetres (9.8 in) length bears 55,000 eggs while a fish at 91 centimetres (36 in) has 1,841,000 eggs. Spawning takes place from depths of around 50 metres (160 ft) down to 150 metres (490 ft). In the northwestern Atlantic spawning lasts from January to July, although it does not occur simultaneously in all areas, and in the northeastern Atlantic the spawning season runs from February to June, peaking in March and April.[6] The eggs are pelagic with a diameter of 1.2 millimetres (0.047 in) to 1.7 millimetres (0.067 in) and they take one to three weeks to hatch. Following metamorphosis, the past larval fish remain pelagic until they attain a length of around 7 centimetres (2.8 in), when they settle to a demersal habit.[10] Their growth rate shows considerable regional variation and fish at one year old can measure 17 centimetres (6.7 in) to 19 centimetres (7.5 in), at 2 years old 25 centimetres (9.8 in) to 36 centimetres (14 in) up to 75 centimetres (30 in) to 82 centimetres (32 in) at 13 years old. Their lifespan is around 14 years.[6] The most important spawning grounds are in the waters off the central coast of Norway, off the southwest of Iceland, and over the Georges Bank.[10][11] The fish which spawn in inshore waters are normally smaller and younger fish than those which occur in offshore areas. The younger fish have a spawning season which is less than half of that of the larger and older stock offshore. Once hatched the larvae do not appear to travel far from their spawning grounds, however some larvae spawning off the west coast of Scotland are transported into the North Sea through the Fair Isle-Shetland Gap or to the northeast of Shetland.[12]

In their larval stages haddock mainly feed on the immature stages of copepods and the pelagic post-larvae up to 3-10 cm in length prey on krill, Larvaceans, decapod larvae, copepods and on small fish. Once they have reached the settled, demersal, post-larval stage, benthic invertebrates become increasingly important although they still feed on pelagic organisms such as krill, however the benthic invertebrates form an increasing part of their diet as they grow. Adults prey on fish such as sand eels, Trisopterus esmarkii, Hippoglossoides platessoides, gobies, European sprat, and Atlantic herring, as well as capelin, silver hake, American eels and argentines.[4] When a number of fish taken at the same time have their stomach contents sampled, the majority of stomachs contain similar prey, this suggests that haddocks feed in shoals.[10] Shellfish, sea urchins, brittlestars and worms are also important prey,[9] especially in the winter.[12] Juvenile haddock are an important prey for larger demersal fish, including other gadoids, while seals prey on the larger fish.[10]

The recorded growth rates of haddock underwent significant change over the 30 to 40 years up to 2011.[10] Growth has been more rapid in recent years, with haddock attaining adult size much earlier than was noted 30-40 years ago. However, the degree to which these larger, younger fish contribute to reproductive success of the population is unknown. The growth rates of haddock, however, have slowed in recent years. There is some evidence which indicates that these slower growth rates may be the result of an exceptionally large year class in 2003.[11] The haddock stock periodically has higher than normal productivity; for example in 1962 and 1967, and to a lesser extent, 1974 and 1999. These result in a more southerly distribution of the fish and have a strong effect on the biomass of the spawning stock, but because of high fishing mortality, these revivals do not have any lasting effect on the population. In general, there was above average recruitment from the 1960s up to the early 1980s, similar to recruitment for Atlantic cod and whiting, this has been called the gadoid outburst. There was strong recruitment in 1999 but since then, the recruitment rate has been very low.[10]


Cod and related species are plagued by parasites. For example, the cod worm, Lernaeocera branchialis, starts life as a copepod, a small, free-swimming crustacean larva. The first host used by cod worm is a flatfish or lumpsucker, which they capture with grasping hooks at the front of their bodies. They penetrate the lumpsucker with a thin filament which they use to suck its blood. The nourished cod worms then mate on the lumpsucker.[13][14]

The female worm, with her now fertilized eggs, then finds a cod, or a cod-like fish such as a haddock or whiting. There, the worm clings to the gills while it metamorphoses into a plump, sinusoidal, wormlike body, with a coiled mass of egg strings at the rear. The front part of the worm's body penetrates the body of the cod until it enters the rear bulb of the host's heart. There, firmly rooted in the cod's circulatory system, the front part of the parasite develops like the branches of a tree, reaching into the main artery. In this way, the worm extracts nutrients from the cod's blood, remaining safely tucked beneath the cod's gill cover until it releases a new generation of offspring into the water.[13][14]


Fins, barbel and lateral line on a haddock. Haddock have three dorsal fins and two anal fins.

Reaching sizes up to 1.1 m (43 in), haddock is fished year-round. Some of the methods used are Danish seine nets, trawlers, long lines and fishing nets. The commercial catch of haddock in North America had declined sharply in recent years, but is now recovering, with recruitment rates running around where they historically were from the 1930s to 1960s.[11] In the eastern Atlantic haddock is mainly exploited by mixed fisheries, being targeted with cod and whiting, especially by light trawlers from Scottish ports as well as seiners and pair trawlers. In some fisheries for Nephrops norvegicus over muddy or sandy bottoms haddock is taken as a bycatch. These fisheries have high rates of discards of undersized haddock, up to 50% of the catch in weight. Haddock are also targeted by boats from England, Denmark and Norway but to a lesser extent and haddock is also taken as a bycatch by industrial fisheries.[10] The main fishing grounds in the eastern Atlantic are located off the European coasts of Russia, around Iceland, in the Barents Sea, around the Faeroe Islands, off western Norway and western Scotland, in the Celtic Sea, off Ireland, in the North Sea and in the English Channel. The United Kingdom and Norway are the countries with the largest catches, the United Kingdom landed over 72,000 tonnes (71,000 long tons; 79,000 short tons) in 1991 and Norway landed over 53,000 tonnes (52,000 long tons; 58,000 short tons).[15] In the western Atlantic the eastern Georges Bank haddock stock is jointly assessed on an annual basis by Canada and the United States and the stock is collaboratively managed through the Canada-United States Transboundary Management Guidance Committee, this committee was established in 2000. There are around 1,000 licensed fishermen in Canada who participate in the haddock fisheries and the total allowable catch for the eastern Georges Bank area in 2009 was 30,000 tonnes (30,000 long tons; 33,000 short tons) and 29,600 tonnes (29,100 long tons; 32,600 short tons) in 2010.[8]

In 2010, Greenpeace International has added the haddock to its seafood red list. "The Greenpeace International seafood red list is a list of fish that are commonly sold in supermarkets around the world, and which have a very high risk of being sourced from unsustainable fisheries."[16] Haddock populations on the offshore grounds of Georges Bank off New England and Nova Scotia have made a remarkable comeback with the adoption of catch shares management program, and are currently harvested at only a fraction of sustainable yields.[17]

As foodEdit

Smoked Haddock served with onions and red peppers
Haddock, roast
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy469 kJ (112 kcal)
0.0 g
Dietary fiber0.0 g
0.93 g
24.24 g
VitaminsQuantity %DV
Thiamine (B1)
0.040 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.045 mg
Niacin (B3)
4.632 mg
Pantothenic acid (B5)
0.150 mg
Vitamin B6
0.346 mg
Folate (B9)
13 μg
Vitamin C
0.00 mg
MineralsQuantity %DV
42 mg
1.35 mg
50 mg
241 mg
399 mg
0.48 mg
Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

Haddock is very popular as a food fish. It is sold fresh or preserved by smoking, freezing, drying, or to a small extent canning. Haddock, along with Atlantic cod and plaice, is one of the most popular fish used in British fish and chips.[18]

When fresh, the flesh of haddock is clean and white and its cooking is often similar to that of cod.[5] A fresh haddock fillet will be firm and translucent and hold together well but less fresh fillets will become nearly opaque.[19] Young, fresh haddock and cod fillets are often sold as scrod in Boston, Massachusetts;[20] this refers to the size of the fish which have a variety of sizes, i.e., scrod, markets, and cows.[21] Haddock is the predominant fish of choice in Scotland in a fish supper.[22] It is also the main ingredient of Norwegian fishballs (fiskeboller).[23]

Unlike cod, haddock is not an appropriate fish for salting and preservation is more commonly effected by drying and smoking.[24]

The smoking of haddock was highly refined in Grimsby. Traditional Grimsby smoked fish (mainly haddock, but sometimes cod) is produced in the traditional smokehouses in Grimsby, which are mostly family-run businesses that have developed their skills over many generations.[25] Grimsby fish market sources its haddock from the North East Atlantic, principally Iceland, Norway and the Faroe Islands. These fishing grounds are sustainably managed[26] and have not seen the large scale depreciation in fish stocks seen in EU waters.[27]

One popular form of haddock is Finnan haddie which is named after the fishing village of Finnan or Findon in Scotland, where the fish was originally cold-smoked over smouldering peat. Finnan haddie is often poached in milk and served for breakfast.[28][29]

The town of Arbroath on the east coast of Scotland produces the Arbroath smokie. This is a hot-smoked haddock which requires no further cooking before eating.[30]

Smoked haddock is naturally an off-white colour and it is frequently dyed yellow, as are other smoked fish. Smoked haddock is the essential ingredient in the Anglo-Indian dish kedgeree,[5] and also in the Scottish dish Cullen skink, a chowder-like soup.[31]


  1. ^ Sobel, J. (1996). "Melanogrammus aeglefinus". The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 1996: e.T13045A3406968. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.1996.RLTS.T13045A3406968.en.
  2. ^ Barnes, M.K.S. (2008). Tyler-Walters H.; Hiscock K. (eds.). "Melanogrammus aeglefinus Haddock". Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews. Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 13 April 2018.
  3. ^ a b c Henry B. Bigelow & William C. Schroeder (1953). "Haddock Melanogrammus aeglefinus". Fishes of the Gulf of Maine. United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  4. ^ a b c Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2018). "Melanogrammus aeglefinus" in FishBase. February 2018 version.
  5. ^ a b c "Haddock". British Sea Fishing. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  6. ^ a b c d e Daniel M. Cohen; Tadashi Inada; Tomio Iwamoto & Nadia Scialabba, eds. (1990). VOL. 10 Gadiform Fishes of the World (Order Gadiformes) An Annotated and Illustrated Catalogue of Cods, Hakes, Grenadiers and other Gadiform Fishes Known to Date (PDF). Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. pp. 54–55. ISBN 978-92-5-102890-2. Retrieved 2 April 2018.
  7. ^ Alwyne Wheeler (1992). The Pocket Guide to Salt Water Fishes of Britain and Europe (1997 ed.). Parkgate Books. p. 47. ISBN 978-1855853645.
  8. ^ a b c "Haddock". Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  9. ^ a b c d Torry Research Station. "The haddock". Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g "Haddock" (PDF). ICES Fish Map. International Council for the Exploration of the Sea. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  11. ^ a b c "NEFSC Ref Doc". NOAA. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  12. ^ a b "Haddock". Topics Marine & Fisheries. Scottish Government Riaghaltas na h-Alba. Retrieved 13 April 2018.
  13. ^ a b Matthews B (1998) An Introduction to Parasitology Page 73–74. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-57691-8.
  14. ^ a b Extraordinary Animals: An Encyclopedia of Curious and Unusual Animals. Greenwood Press. 2007.
  15. ^ "Species Fact Sheets Melanogrammus aeglefinus (Linnaeus, 1758)". FAO FishFinder. Food and Agriculture Organsiation of the United Nations Fisheries and Aquaculture Department. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  16. ^ Greenpeace International Seafood Red list
  17. ^ Kirsten Weir (July 2009). "The Great Haddock Revival". The Scientist. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  18. ^ "Fish and chips". Seafish Business to Business Website. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  19. ^ "Products > Whole Fish & Seafood > Haddock Melanogrammus aeglefinus". SevenSeasFoods. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  20. ^ G. Stephen Jones (23 July 2010). "Cod or Scrod – What's the Difference?". Reluctant Gourmet. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  21. ^ "Haddock" (PDF). Rastelli Seafood. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  22. ^ "Traditional Fish and Chips in Batter". Scotland's Enchanted Kingdom. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  23. ^ Lois Sinaiko Webb & Lindsay Grace Cardella (2011). Holidays of the World Cookbook for Students, 2nd Edition: Updated and Revised. ABC-CLIO. p. 2018. ISBN 978-0313383946.
  24. ^ "Haddock fish identification, its habitats, characteristics, fishing methods". All Fishing Guide. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  25. ^ Grimsby Traditional Fish Smokers Group Archived 2010-09-03 at the Wayback Machine
  26. ^ Icelandic Request on the Evaluation of Icelandic Cod and Haddock Management Plan Archived 2010-12-06 at the Wayback Machine
  27. ^ European Commission, Communication on Fishing Opportunities for 2009. May 2008
  28. ^ Full recipe for Finnan Haddie from Scottish chef John Quigley Archived 2007-10-24 at the Wayback Machine
  29. ^ "Traditional Scottish Recipes - Finnan Haddie". RampantScotland. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  30. ^ "What Is A 'Smokie?'". Iain R Spink "The Smokie Man". Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  31. ^ "Cullen skink". BBC. Retrieved 14 April 2018.

Other referencesEdit