Haddock is much like cod. I see the haddock as a sleeker and racier fish than the cod. The haddock's leading dorsal fin reminds me of the sail of a lantine-rigged sunfish sailboat with scooped sail while the cod's dorsal fin curves up, outwards, to the third spine in the dorsal fin before arching back down looking more like a canoe paddle blade.
However it is the dark dusky blotch on each side over the middle of the pectoral fin that is the distinguishing mark of a haddock. Some fishermen call the mark "God's fingerprint" or "St. Peter's fingerprint." Seeing this blotch, often when far out at sea, can be a reassuring sign that one is not alone.
I like to think of St. Peter catching 153 haddock when Jesus said to throw out his net were Peter thought there would be no fish. I imagine Peter grabbing one fish between thumb and forefinger. Releasing the haddock over the side, the fish forever wears the fingerprint marks in gratitude for not being part of the blessed fish fry that followed on the beach.
Haddock feed on a variety bottom-dwelling animals, including mollusks, polychaete worms, crustaceans, sea stars, sea urchins, sand dollars, brittle stars, and occasional fish eggs. Adults sometimes eat small fish, especially herring. Elasmobranchs (spiny dogfish and skates) and many groundfish species (cod, pollock, cusk, hakes, monkfish, halibut, and sea raven) prey on juvenile haddock. Gray seals also prey on haddock.
Haddock populations on the offshore grounds have made a remarkable comeback with the adoption of catch shares management program, and are currently harvested at only a fraction of sustainable yields. Managers continue to try to identify ways for fishermen to take advantage of this abundant stock while avoiding stocks that are rebuilding.
In the late 1980s to early 1990s haddock population on Georges Bank and in the Gulf of Maine dropped to the lowest levels ever recorded. The 1995 haddock harvest on Georges Bank was the lowest on record. The depletion of the stock was due to a combination of overfishing, years of poor reproduction and survival rates.
Fortunately, because haddock can be very productive, they respond to management actions quickly. In the 1990s, fishery managers enacted a number of conservation measures to decrease harvest rates for haddock on Georges Bank. In 2003, spawning haddock on Georges Bank produced the largest incoming group of young fish in 40 years. Because of these substantial increases in abundance, the total commercial harvest in 2004 was 7 times larger than the record low level from 1995. In 2010, the commercial haddock harvest in Georges Bank increased to more than 9,000 metric tons, and was valued at nearly $21.7 million.
The most recent assessment (2012) found that the Georges Bank haddock stock was about 34 percent above its target population level and is no longer overfished. The Gulf of Maine stock is at 59 percent of its target population level and is not overfished, but is approaching an overfished condition. According to the latest assessment (2012), overfishing is not occurring on Georges Bank, but overfishing is occurring in the Gulf of Maine.
There is ongoing research into methods to improve separation of fish species in fishing nets to allow fishermen to continue fishing the now recovered haddock stocks while minimizing bycatch of other species such us cod and flounder. Research specifically into the behavior of different fish when in the nets has pointed the way to the development of mechanisms that encourage this separation. For example some studies have shown that haddock tend to swim up whereas cod and, especially, flounder swim down when presented with colored dividers in the net. Capitalizing on this has allowed fishermen to decrease the take of the troubled cod and flounder while continuing to fish for haddock. NOAA continues to encourage such research that can help both fish and fishermen.
Supporters are now helping to
Our goal is to save fish and fishing communities with more funding for fisheries research to better understand fish populations and management in the reauthorized Magnuson Stevens Fisheries Management Act. Fisheries management deserves more government support. Since 2000, 34 populations have been rebuilt from overfishing. They are now sustainably fished. This leaves 26 fish…
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