From New World Encyclopedia
Melanogrammus aeglefinus.jpg
Conservation status
Status iucn2.3 VU.svg


Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Gadiformes
Family: Gadidae
Genus: Melanogrammus
Gill, 1862
Species: M. aeglefinus
Binomial name
Melanogrammus aeglefinus
(Linnaeus, 1758)

Haddock is the common name for a marine fish of the North Atlantic, Melanogrammus aeglefinus, similar to the cod of the same family (Gadidae) and subfamily (Gadinae), but having a prominent dark blotch over the pectoral fins and with a dark lateral line rather than a light lateral line. Other common names include seed haddock, Finnan haddock, and offshore hake.

Some other species in other families also use the common name of haddock, including Lampris guttatus (Jerusalem haddock, normally opahs), Sebastes viviparus (Norway haddock), and Merluccius australis (haddock, normally hake or whiting) (Agbayani 2006).

Haddock provides important ecological, commercial, and nutritional values. Ecologically, they are important for North Atlantic food chains, with a large female capable of producing up to three million eggs a year (Grzimek et al. 2004), and thus providing a food source for numerous fish and marine mammals. Commercially, haddock is a valuable fishery for many nations, particularly in the northeastern Atlantic where ninety percent of the fish are caught. Furthermore, haddock provides not only a nutritious, low-fat food for people, high in protein and vitamin B12, but also offering a unique and popular taste, with firm texture and mild flavor, suitable for a diversity of preparations (Herbst 2001).

The large number of eggs produced by adult females—with even an average-sized female producing about 850,000 eggs (Grzimek et al. 2004)—allows the haddock not only to advance its own survival as a species, but is fundamental to its ability to provide a benefit for other species and for the ecosystem as a whole. This reflects the principle of bi-level functionality, whereby an entity not only exhibits a function for the individual (survival, reproduction, development, self-maintenance), but also exhibits a function for the whole (ecosystem, humans).

Overview and description


The haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus) belongs to the cod family, Gadidae, a taxon of marine fish included in the order Gadiformes. This family also includes the cod (genus Gadus), whiting (Merlangius merlangus), pollock or pollack (Pollachius genus), and some fish commonly called hakes (although there are several other families of hakes, such as merluccid hakes, family Merlucciidae, and the southern hakes, family Macruronidae), among others. Some other forms once included in this family here have since been removed to other families; on the other hand, the tadpole cod family Ranicipitidae has now been absorbed into Gadidae. (It only contains one species, the tadpole fish, Raniceps raninus.)

Members of the Gadidae family, like other Gadiformes, are characterized by the pelvic fins being below or in front of the pectoral fins and by being soft-rayed, with no true spines in the fins (Nelson 1994). The members of Gadidae have the first dorsal fin posterior to the head, the swim bladder not connected to the auditory capsules, and the head of the vomer is toothed (Nelson 1994). They are found in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic Oceans.

Nelson (1994) listed the Gadidae family as having fifteen genera and thirty species. Twelve of these genera he recognizes as being in the cod and haddock subfamily Gadinae, including Melangrammus, Merlangius, Pollachius, and Gadus.


The Melanogrammus genus comprises the haddocks, of which there is one extant species, M. aeglefinus. Like species of cod in Gadinae, it has three separate dorsal fins and two separate anal fins, all separated by narrow gaps, and a small chin barbel (Grzimek et al. 2004). However, it is distinguished by having a black lateral line running along its white side (not to be confused with pollock, which has the reverse—a white line on black side), and a distinctive dark blotch above the pectoral fin, often described as a "thumbprint" or even the "Devil's thumbprint" or "St. Peter's mark." Sometimes the pelvic fins have one ray that is elongate (Grzimek et al. 2004).

Haddock is found in the North Atlantic, from the Western North Atlantic from Labrador to Virginia to the Eastern North Atlantic from the Bay of Fiscay to Spitzbergen and in the Barents Sea and around Iceland and Greenland (Grzimek et al. 2004). The areas of the Georges Bank, southern Grand Bank, and Scotian Shelf have particularly high concentrations (Grzimek et al. 2004).

Haddock is most commonly found at depths of 44 to 135 meters (148 to 443 feet) (Grzimket et al. 2004), but has a range as deep as 300 meters. It thrives in temperatures of 2° to 10°C (36° to 50°F). Juveniles prefer shallower waters and larger adults deeper water. Generally, adult haddock do not engage in long migratory behavior as do the younger fish, but seasonal movements have been known to occur across all ages.

The 2007 IUCN List of Threatened Species lists the conservation status of Melanogrammus aeglefinus as "vulnerable," based on a 1996 assessment (Sobel 1996). The spawning stock of Georges Bank did significantly decline from 1978 to 1993, from 76,000 metric ton to 12,125 metric ton, but it did increase by 1998 to 41,900 metric ton, likely do to conservation efforts (Grzimek et al. 2004).

Behavior, feeding, and reproduction

Haddock feed primarily on small invertebrates, including crustaceans, polychaetes, echinoderms, and mollusks (Grzimek et al. 2004). Larger members of the species may occasionally consume fish.

Haddock spawn between January and June, with late March and early April the peak time (Grzimek et al. 2004). An average female produces about 850,000 eggs, with larger females producing up to three million eggs a year (Grzimek et al. 2004). In the past thirty to forty years, the growth rates and maturation rates have changed, with haddock maturing earlier and reaching larger size earlier (Grzimek et al. 2004). Growth rates of Georges Bank haddock, however, have slowed in recent years. There is evidence that this is the result of an exceptionally large year class in 2003 (NEFSC 2002).


Haddock is a very valuable North Atlantic fishery, with over 90 percent of the 439,295 metric tons (398,522 short tons) caught in 1987 (according to the Food and Agriculture Organization) coming from the northeastern Atlantic. Leading nations fishing for this species include the United Kingdom, Russia, Norway, and Iceland. France and Denmark also have substantial fisheries in the northeastern Atlantic, while Canada dominates fishing in the Northwest Atlantic, followed by the United States (Grzimek et al. 2004).

Reaching sizes up to 1.1 meters, 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 (NEFSC 2002).


Haddock is a very popular food fish, sold fresh, smoked, frozen, dried, or to a small extent canned. Haddock, along with cod and plaice, is one of the most popular fish used in British fish and chips.

Fresh haddock has a fine white flesh, firm texture, and mild flavor (Herbst 2001). It can be cooked in the same ways as cod, using such diverse styles as baking, sautéing, poaching, and grilling (Herbst 2001). Freshness of a haddock fillet can be determined by how well it holds together, as a fresh one will be firm; also fillets should be translucent, while older fillets turn a chalky hue. Young, fresh haddock and cod fillets are often sold as scrod in Boston, Massachusetts; this refers to the size of the fish, which have a variety of sizes, i.e. scrod, markets, and cows. Haddock is the predominant fish of choice in Scotland in a fish supper. It is also the main ingredient of Norwegian fishballs (fiskeboller).

Unlike the related cod, haddock does not salt well so is often preserved by drying and smoking. One form of smoked haddock is Finnan Haddie, named for the fishing village of Finnan or Findon, Scotland, where it was originally cold-smoked over peat. Finnan haddie is often served poached in milk for breakfast. Smoked haddock naturally has an off-white color; it is very often dyed yellow, as are other smoked fish. Smoked haddock is the essential ingredient in the Anglo-Indian dish kedgeree.

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.

Haddock is as an excellent source of dietary protein. It also contains a good deal of vitamin B12, pyridoxine, and selenium, and a healthy balance of sodium and potassium, with very little fat.

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