Saithe in Norwegian waters is often divided into two stocks: one in the North Sea and one in the Barents Sea and the Norwegian Sea. The border between the groups is at the 62nd parallel. Saithe often gather in schools in areas with plenty of food. Another important characteristics of this species is that it migrates long distances from the feeding and rearing grounds to the spawning grounds. Saithe spawn in winter, along the coastal banks from Lofoten and all the way down to the North Sea. The fry then drift passively north with the current. Saithe can reach a length of up to 1.3 metres and a weight of 20 kilos. Its life span is up to 30 years.
Saithe fishing takes place all year. Saithe is sold fresh as fillets or whole fish, or as frozen fillets.
Saithe is a good source of iodine. A dinner of saithe also meets the daily requirement for marine omega-3, according to European food authorities.
Content of undesirable substances
Saithe fillets have low levels of undesirable substances and are safe to eat.
In saithe and other lean fish, organic environmental pollutants mainly accumulate in the liver. In the Barents Sea, the levels of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs in saithe liver are well below the maximum level permitted in foodstuffs. The levels are higher in saithe liver from the Norwegian Sea and the North Sea, but they are still below the maximum level.
NIFES has conducted a thorough investigation of the levels of undesirable substances in saithe in the North Sea, the Norwegian Sea and the Barents Sea. A total of 1,620 fish have been analysed individually in studies known as baseline studies, and the results show generally low levels of undesirable substances.
Annual monitoring includes 25 individual fish from each of two positions in the North Sea, the Norwegian Sea and the Barents Sea, respectively. Both the muscle tissue and the liver are analysed.