Based on the most recent estimates of spawning stock biomass (SSB), ICES classifies the cod stock as having full reproductive capacity and being harvested sustainably (Figure 4.3.38). The SSB has been above Bpa since 2002 and is now at a record high level, while the total stock biomass is at a level not seen since the early 1950s. Currently the stock is dominated by large individuals from the very abundant 2004-2006 year classes; these year classes largely support the current fishery (ICES AFWG, 2014).
Cod is the most important predatory fish species in the Barents Sea. It feeds on a wide variety of prey, including larger zooplankton, most available fish species, shrimp, and even juvenile cod. Capelin is a preferred prey for cod. Major prey items during 2013 included capelin, polar cod, juvenile cod, shrimp, Euphausiids (krill), amphipods, and haddock. The estimated 6 million tonnes of prey consumed by cod in 2013 was a decrease from the amount consumed in 2012.
Spatial distribution of the cod stock is expanding northward and eastward (Figure 4.3.39. This is due to high temperatures observed in recent years as well as high stock abundance. Additionally, the age/size structure has broadened to include more big fish which are likely to undertake longer northward migrations. It is important that the spatial coverage of research surveys be increased accordingly.
The 2014 TAC was set at 993,000 tonnes, in accordance with the harvest control rule. This is similar to the 2013 TAC that was set at 1 million tonnes (ICES AFWG, 2014).