LOCATION & HABITAT
Haddock are found on both sides of the North Atlantic. In the western North Atlantic, they’re found from Newfoundland to Cape May, New Jersey, and are most abundant on Georges Bank and in the Gulf of Maine.
Haddock are groundfish – they live near the bottom and prefer habitats of gravel, pebbles, clay, and smooth hard sand. These bottom types are more common on Georges Bank; haddock are more abundant there than in the Gulf of Maine. They’re most common in waters 130 to almost 500 feet deep and prefer temperatures below 45ºF. Juveniles are found in shallower water on bank and shoal areas; larger adults are more common in deeper water. Adults travel to shallower waters in the spring to spawn.
Haddock grow relatively fast, to 1 to 3 feet. They generally live 3 to 7 years, but NOAA Fisheries scientists captured an 18-year-old haddock during their 1976 spring research survey. Haddock are able to reproduce when they reach 1 to 4 years old. They spawn between January and June on eastern Georges Bank to the east of Nantucket Shoals and along the Maine coast over rock, gravel, sand, or mud bottoms. Haddock are very productive – every year, an average-sized female (2 feet long) produces around 850,000 eggs, and larger females can produce up to 3 million eggs. Females release their eggs in batches near the ocean floor, where a courting male fertilizes them. Once fertilized, eggs rise to the surface where they drift with ocean currents. Newly hatched haddock remain near the surface for several months before they settle to the bottom.
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 is a member of the cod family. Haddock is smaller than Atlantic cod, generally weighing 2 to 5 pounds, and can be distinguished by a black “thumbprint” found on each side of its body. Its skin is also less mottled than cod.
Recreational landings of Georges Bank haddock are not significant. However, recreational catches of Gulf of Maine haddock have increased in recent years, and in 2007 were nearly equivalent to the commercial landings.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, populations of haddock – a popular whitefish related to cod – had dropped to the lowest levels ever recorded for the stocks in the Gulf of Maine and on Georges Bank. Constant overfishing, coupled with years of poor reproduction and survival rates for these stocks, were responsible for haddock’s dramatic declines.
Luckily, because haddock can be very productive, they respond to management actions quickly. In the 1990s, both U.S. and Canadian fishery managers enacted a number of conservation measures to decrease harvest rates for haddock on Georges Bank. The 1995 haddock harvest on Georges Bank was the lowest on record, but thanks to strict harvest limits the stock began to rebound. 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. The Georges Bank stock is now at twice its target population level.
In the Gulf of Maine, fishery managers closed five large areas to most fishing to help alleviate fishing pressure and rebuild the depleted haddock stock. They closed areas where haddock catches were high (an indicator of high haddock abundance) to improve the stock’s reproduction and survival rates. By the early 2000s, abundance had increased to levels not seen since haddock abundance peaked in the early 1980s. Today, the Gulf of Maine stock is no longer overfished and is at its target population level. With rebuilt haddock stocks, fishermen are now able to sustainably harvest this valuable whitefish. In 2010, the commercial haddock increased to almost 9,300 metric tons, and was valued at nearly $21.7 million. Managers continue to try to identify ways for fishermen to take advantage of these abundant stocks while avoiding stocks that are rebuilding.
|Hampton State Launch Ramp and Docks||Hampton Harbor||NH||15442|
|Eastman Fshg Parties/town Pier/launc||Seabrook||NH||14294|
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|Capt Fishing Parties||Newburyport||MA||1890|
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|Plum Island Beach||Newburyport||MA||103|
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