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Saithe Pollachius virens ; Linnaeus, 1758. Family: Gadidae


Saithe are widely distributed in the North Atlantic. Adult saithe can be caught in almost any sea area, but occur mainly around the 200 metre depth contour. In late summer and autumn young saithe are found in large numbers within Scottish and Norwegian coastal waters, usually on grounds which are unsuitable for commercial fishing. The adult stock can occur in dense shoals which move around the water column and are often caught hundreds of metres above the seabed.

Life History

aithe reach maturity between the ages of four and six years. A medium sized adult female of around 75 cm can produce about 2.9 million eggs during a spawning season. Spawning takes place in late winter and spring near to the edge of the continental shelf to the north and west of the Outer Hebrides. Initially the young fish live near to the surface but by mid-summer they can be found close inshore, in bays and harbours. In their second year they live along the shoreline before eventually moving to deeper water. This offshore migration usually occurs in springtime. Saithe grow quickly, averaging around 15 cm per year for the first three years and 10 cm for the next three, reaching 100 cm by the time they are 11 years old.


Saithe are active predators, feeding on the bottom and in mid-water. By weight, fish prey dominate their diet at all times of the year. Herring, Norway pout and sandeel are the main fish species eaten.