It is distributed on both sides of the North Atlantic, mostly in moderately deep water. On the North American coast it is regularly found southward to Cape Cod and occasionally off New Jersey. Its maximum range covers most of the North Atlantic, including the waters around Iceland and the Norwegian coast.
It is normally found in water deeper than sixty feet (20 m), and practically always is taken over rough bottoms where rocks, ledges, or gravel are common. Good fishing areas are usually much more limited than is the case with cod, haddock, or pollock. It is an offshore fish and rarely is one taken in a harbor.
In the Gulf of Maine, cusk are chiefly taken on hook and line. Line trawls account for most of the commercial catch off the New England coast, and most of them are caught during the winter and spring. The commercial catch individuals run between 1 and 2 feet long (30–60 cm), and average about 5 pounds (2 kg). It is an excellent food fish. It is marketed as fresh or frozen fillets; a part of the catch is smoked.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) considers this species Threatened based on a 2003 Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) assessment. The status report identified that catches of cusk in the DFO summer bottom trawl survey had declined by roughly 90% from 1970 to the late 1990s . A landings limit of 1000 mt was put in place in 1999 in the 4X North American Fisheries Organization (NAFO) area and was further restricted to 750 t and expanded to include the 4VWX5Z NAFO areas in 2003. Cusk are still commonly caught as bycatch in the longline and lobster fisheries and can be found in supermarkets in Atlantic Canada despite its Threatened status.