Gadus morhua, Atlantic cod
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Gadiformes
Family: Gadidae
Genus: Gadus
Linnaeus, 1758 [2]
  • Gadus macrocephalus
  • Gadus morhua
  • Gadus ogac
An Atlantic cod at the Atlantic Sea-Park in Ålesund, Norway

Cod is the common name for genus Gadus, belonging to the family Gadidae, and is also used in the common name for various other fishes. Cod is a popular food with a mild flavor, low fat content and a dense, flaky white flesh. Cod livers are processed to make cod liver oil, an important source of vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA). The northeast Arctic cod, which is traditionally fished when approaching the coast during spawning, are sometimes called skrei. Young Atlantic cod or haddock prepared in strips for cooking is called scrod.

The Atlantic cod, which can change color at certain water depths, has two distinct color phases: gray-green and reddish brown. Its average weight is 5–12 kilograms (11–26 lb), but specimens weighing up to 100 kilograms (220 lb) have been recorded. Cod feed on molluscs, crabs, starfish, worms, squid, and small fish. Some migrate to warm water in winter to spawn. A large female lays up to five million eggs in mid ocean, a very small number of which survive. Pacific or saltwater cod are also found around the coast of British Columbia, Canada and the northwestern US coastal areas. These fish are three times the size of their eastern counterparts[citation needed] and are darker in color.

Cod meat is moist and flaky when cooked and is white in color. In the United Kingdom, Atlantic cod is one of the most common ingredients in fish and chips, along with haddock and plaice. It is also frequently consumed in Portugal and Spain.

Cod are currently at risk from overfishing in the UK, Canada and most other Atlantic countries.[3]


"Cod" that is not cod

Related species

Cod forms part of the common name of many other fish no longer classified in the genus Gadus. Many are members of the family Gadidae; others are members of three related families within the order Gadiformes whose names include the word "cod": the morid cods, Moridae (100 or so species); the eel cods, Muraenolepididae (four species); and the Eucla cod, Euclichthyidae (one species). The tadpole cod family (Ranicipitidae) has now been placed in Gadidae.

Drawing of paper with serrated edge, value of 1 cent, portraying piled-up fish
Cod postage stamp, Newfoundland

Gadiformes include:

Some fish have common names derived from "cod", such as codling, codlet or tomcod. ("Codling" is also used as a name for a young cod.)

Unrelated species

Some fish commonly known as cod are unrelated to Gadus. Part of this name confusion is market-driven. Severely shrunken Atlantic cod stocks have led to the marketing of cod replacements using names of the form "x cod", according to culinary rather than phyletic similarity. The common names for the following species have become well established; note that all inhabit the Southern Hemisphere. The cods have the scientific name,'Gadus morhua'. Gadus morhua was named by Linnaeus in 1758. However, G. morhua callarias, a low salinity, non-migratory race restricted to parts of the Baltic, was originally described as Gadus callarias by Linnaeus.


Fish of the order Perciformes that are commonly called "cod" include:

Rock cod, reef cod, and coral cod

Almost all coral cod, reef cod or rock cod are also in order Perciformes. Most are better known as groupers, and belong to the family Serranidae. Others belong to the Nototheniidiae. Two exceptions are the Australasian red rock cod, which belongs to a different order (see below), and the fish known simply as the rock cod and as soft cod in New Zealand, Lotella rhacina, which as noted above actually is related to the true cod (it is a morid cod).


From the order Scorpaeniformes:

  • Ling cod Ophiodon elongatus
  • Red rock cod Scorpaena papillosa


The tadpole cod family, Ranicipitidae, and the Eucla cod family, Euclichthyidae, were formerly classified in the order Ophidiiformes, but are now grouped with the Gadiformes.

Marketed as

Some fish that do not have "cod" in their names are sometimes sold as cod. Haddock and whiting belong in the same family, the Gadidae, as cod.


Cod have three rounded dorsal and two anal fins. The pelvic fins are small, with the first ray extended, and are set under the gill cover (i.e. the throat region), in front of the pectoral fins. The upper jaw extends over the lower jaw, which has a well-developed chin barbel. The eyes are medium sized, approximately the same as the length of the chin barbel. Cod have a distinct white lateral line running from the gill slit above the pectoral fin, to the base of the caudal or tail fin. The back tends to be a greenish to sandy brown, and shows extensive mottling, especially towards the lighter sides and white belly. Dark brown coloration of the back and sides is not uncommon, especially for individuals that have resided in rocky inshore regions.


Cod divide into several stocks, including the Arcto-Norwegian, North Sea, Faroe, Iceland, East Greenland, West Greenland, Newfoundland, and Labrador stocks. There seems to be little interchange between the stocks, although migrations to their individual breeding grounds may involve distances of 200 miles (320 km)or more.

Spawning occurs between January and April (March and April are the peak months), at a depth of 200 metres (660 ft) in specific spawning grounds at water temperatures between 4 and 6 °C (39 and 43 °F). Around the UK, the major spawning grounds are in the middle to southern North Sea, the start of the Bristol Channel (north of Newquay), the Irish Channel (both east and west of the Isle of Man), around Stornoway, and east of Helmsdale.

Prespawning courtship involves fin displays and male grunting[citation needed], which leads to pairing. The male inverts himself beneath the female, and the pair swim in circles while spawning. The eggs are planktonic and hatch between eight and 23 days, with larva reaching 4 millimetres (0.16 in) in length. This planktonic phase lasts some ten weeks, enabling the young cod to increase its body weight by 40-fold, and growing to about 2 centimetres (0.79 in). The young cod then move to the seabed and change their diet to small benthic crustaceans, such as isopods and small crabs. They increase in size to 8 centimetres (3.1 in) in the first six months, 14–18 centimetres (5.5–7.1 in) by the end of their first year, and to 25–35 centimetres (9.8–14 in) by the end of the second. Growth tends to be less at higher latitudes. Cod reach maturity at about 50 centimetres (20 in) at about 3 to 4 years of age.


Cod occupy varied habitat, favoring rough ground, especially inshore, and are demersal in depths between 20 and 200 feet (6.1 and 61 m), 80 metres (260 ft) on average, although not uncommonly to depths of 600 metres (2,000 ft). Off the Norwegian and New England coasts and on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, cod congregate at certain seasons in water of 30–70 metres (98–230 ft) depth. Cod are gregarious and form schools, although shoaling tends to be a feature of the spawning season.


Adult cod are active hunters, feeding on sand eels, whiting, haddock, small cod, squid, crabs, lobsters, mussels, worms, mackerel, and molluscs. Young cod avoid larger prey.


A fish with its gills infested with two cod worms

Cod and related species are plagued by parasites. For example the cod worm, Lernaeocera branchialis, starts life as a copepod, a small free-swimming crustacean larva. The first host used by cod worm is a flatfish or lumpsucker, which they capture with grasping hooks at the front of their body. They penetrate the lumpsucker with a thin filament which they use to suck its blood. The nourished cod worms then mate on the lumpsucker.[4][5]

The female worm, with her now fertilized eggs, then finds a cod, or a cod-like fish such as a haddock or whiting. There the worm clings to the gills while it metamorphoses into a plump, sinusoidal, wormlike body, with a coiled mass of egg strings at the rear. The front part of the worms body penetrates the body of the cod until it enters the rear bulb of the host's heart. There, firmly rooted in the cod's circulatory system, the front part of the parasite develops like the branches of a tree, reaching into the main artery. In this way, the worm extracts nutrients from the cod's blood, remaining safely tucked beneath the cod's gill cover until it releases a new generation of offspring into the water.[4][5]


Gadus morhua cod live in the colder waters and deeper sea regions throughout the North Atlantic. The Gadus macrocephalus is found in both eastern and western regions of the Pacific.[6]

Cod trade/history

Photo of several dried fish suspended head-down
Dried but unsalted cod (stockfish)

Cod has been an important economic commodity in international markets since the Viking period (around 800 AD). Norwegians traveled with dried cod and soon a dried cod market developed in southern Europe. This market has lasted for more than 1,000 years, enduring the Black Death, wars and other crises, and is still an important Norwegian fish trade.[7] The Portuguese began fishing cod in the 15th century. Clipfish is widely enjoyed in Portugal. The Basques played an important role in the cod trade, and allegedly found the Canadian fishing banks before Columbus' discovery of America.[8] The North American east coast developed in part due to the vast cod stocks. Many cities in the New England area located near cod fishing grounds. The fish was so important to the history and development of Massachusetts, the state's House of Representatives hung a wood carving of a codfish, known as the Sacred Cod of Massachusetts, in its chambers.

Apart from the long history, cod differ from most fish because the fishing grounds are far from population centers. The large cod fisheries along the coast of North Norway (and in particular close to the Lofoten islands) have been developed almost uniquely for export, depending on sea transport of stockfish over large distances.[9] Since the introduction of salt, dried and salted cod (clipfish or 'klippfisk' in Norwegian) has also been exported. By the end of the 14th century, the Hanseatic League dominated trade operations and sea transport, with Bergen as the most important port.[10]

William Pitt the Elder, criticizing the Treaty of Paris in Parliament, claimed cod was "British gold"; and that it was folly to restore Newfoundland fishing rights to the French.

In the 17th and 18th centuries in the New World, especially in Massachusetts and Newfoundland, cod became a major commodity, creating trade networks and cross-cultural exchanges. In 1733, Britain tried to gain control over trade between New England and the British Caribbean by imposing the Molasses Act, which they believed would eliminate the trade by making it unprofitable. The cod trade grew instead, because the "French were eager to work with the New Englanders in a lucrative contraband arrangement".[8] The American settlers traded cod with the French Caribbean for rum-producing molasses. In addition to increasing trade, the New England settlers organized into a "codfish aristocracy". The colonists rose up against Britain's "tariff on an import". Angry merchants, including John Hancock and John Rowe, disguised themselves, boarded their own ships and dumped their own goods into the harbor, an event known as the Boston Tea Party (p. 96).[8]

In the 20th century, Iceland re-emerged as a fishing power and entered the Cod Wars. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, fishing off the European and American coasts severely depleted stocks and become a major political issue. The necessity of restricting catches to allow stocks to recover upset the fishing industry and politicians reluctant to hurt employment. The 2006 northwest Atlantic cod quota is 23,000 tons, representing half the available stocks, while the northeast Atlantic quota is 473,000 tons.

Pacific cod is currently enjoying strong global demand. The 2006 total allowable catch (TAC) for the Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands was 260,000 tons.

Endangered species controversies in Canada and Europe

Following the early 1990s collapse of Canadian stocks, the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) banned fishing for northern (that is, cod to the north and east of the island of Newfoundland, in NAFO areas JKL) cod in 1992, which caused great economic hardship in Newfoundland and Labrador. The collapse was blamed on cold water, or seals, and it had even been suggested the cod were really still there; only rarely was overfishing acknowledged, or management's role in that.

The DFO partly lifted its ban in 1997, although the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea noted the poor recovery of Canadian cod stocks.[11] In general, depleted populations of cod and other gadids appear to recover poorly when fishing pressure is reduced or stopped.[12]

In 1998, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) listed the Atlantic cod as "vulnerable", a category subsequently rebranded as "special concern", though not as an endangered species. Dr. Kim Bell, who drafted the report for COSEWIC, subsequently stated the original report in fact had advised endangered status, but political pressure by the DFO within COSEWIC had resulted in a decision of vulnerable.[13] Attempts to alter the Report to fit that decision were resisted by the author, putting COSEWIC in the position of having a decision at odds with the Report that in form was supposed to inform that decision. Instead of providing its own reasoning for going against the recommendation (which would have been reasonable), COSEWIC simply suppressed the Report, so the 1998 Status Report on cod is not available on request as its own Procedures require all accepted Reports to be.

In 2000, WWF placed cod on the endangered species list. The WWF issued a report stating the global cod catch had suffered a 70 percent drop over the last 30 years, and if this trend continued, the world’s cod stocks would disappear in 15 years.[14] Åsmund Bjordal, director of the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research disputed the WWF's claim, noting the healthy Barents Sea cod population.[15] Cod is among Norway's most important fishery exports and the Barents Sea is Norway's most important cod fishery.

In 2003, under the new legislative frameword of the Species At Risk Act [SARA], COSEWIC placed the Newfoundland and Labrador fisheries cod on the endangered species list and Fisheries Minister Robert Thibault announced an indefinite closure in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and off Newfoundland's northeast coast. The SARA framework however puts the final decision in the discretion of the Minister of Environment, thus in the realm of politics and removed from science or logic. The SARA framework also provides for heavy penalties that are simply unreasonable for fisheries (because capture is dependent on substantially random encounter) because due diligence is not sufficient to avoid the infractions that would generate them, except by not fishing at all. Although that problem could have been dealt with in regulations under the Act, the prospect of a Listing shutting down fisheries was used cynically[16] to generate alarm and political opposition to a Listing, which the Minister then refused. COSEWIC's designation (under SARA) has no legal effect if the Minister refuses it. In effect, the legislation's own structure and wording had provided the means of defeating itself.

In a 2004 report, the WWF agreed the Barents Sea cod fishery appeared to be healthy, but that the situation may not last due to illegal fishing, industrial development, and high quotas.[17]

In 2005, the WWF—Canada accused both foreign and Canadian fishing vessels of deliberate, large-scale violations of the restrictions on the Grand Banks, in the form of bycatch. WWF also claimed poor enforcement by NAFO, an intergovernmental organization with a mandate to provide scientific fishery advice and management in the northwestern Atlantic.[18][19]

According to Seafood Watch, cod is currently on the list of fish consumers should avoid. In a book on the subject, Charles Clover claims cod is only an example of how unsustainable fishing is destroying ocean ecosystems.[20]

In 2010, Greenpeace International added the Atlantic cod to its seafood red list. "The Greenpeace International seafood red list is a list of fish that are commonly sold in supermarkets around the world, and which have a very high risk of being sourced from unsustainable fisheries."[21]

In 2006, the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research considered coastal cod (but not the North East Arctic cod) endangered, but has since reverted this assessment.[22]


Farming of Atlantic cod has received a significant amount of interest due to the overall trend of increasing cod prices alongside reducing wild catches.[23] However, progress in creating large scale farming of cod has been slow, mainly due to bottlenecks in the larval production stage, where survival and growth are often unpredictable.[24] It has been suggested that this bottleneck may be overcome by ensuring cod larvae are fed diets with similar nutritional content as the copepods they feed on in the wild,[25][26] and recent examples have shown that increasing dietary levels of minerals such as selenium and iodine can improve survival and/or biomarkers for health in aquaculture reared cod larvae [27][28]

King cod

Periodically, a cod with a deformed skull is found; the skull has a distinct top or crown, giving it the name "king cod" or kongetorsk in Norwegian. In Norway, this rare fish was earlier considered to be able to forecast the weather and was commonly used for that purpose. A woolen thread suspended the fish from the ceiling; its nose would point in a different direction depending on the coming weather. In reality, the thread rather than the fish caused the movement[citation needed]. The twisted thread served as a primitive hygrometer by reacting to the air's humidity, turning the fish as the humidity rose and fell.

Nutritional content

USDA data : Pacific cod Atlantic cod


Canned cod liver

Cod's soft liver can be tinned (canned) and eaten. It is an important source of vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA).[citation needed]

Further reading

See also


  1. ^ "Gadus morhua". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2.3. International Union for Conservation of Nature. 1996. Retrieved July 5, 2011. 
  2. ^ WoRMS (2011). "Gadus". In Nicolas Bailly. FishBase. World Register of Marine Species. Retrieved July 5, 2011. 
  3. ^ Hickman, Martin; Affairs, Consumer (2007-11-16). "Pollack sales rise, as public gets message on cod". The Independent (London). Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  4. ^ a b Matthews B (1998) An Introduction to Parasitology Page 73–74. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521576918.
  5. ^ a b Extraordinary Animals: An Encyclopedia of Curious and Unusual Animals. Greenwood Press. 2007. 
  6. ^ "Cod", Encyclopedia Britannica online 2008
  7. ^ James Barrett, Roelf Beukens, Ian Simpson, Patrick Ashmore, Sandra Poaps and Jacqui Huntley (2000). "What was the Viking age and when did it happen? A view from Orkney". Norwegian Archaeological Review 33 (1): 1–39. doi:10.1080/00293650050202600. 
  8. ^ a b c Kurlansky, Mark (1997). Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World. New York: Walker. ISBN 0-8027-1326-2. 
  9. ^ G. Rolfsen (1966). "Norwegian fisheries Research.". FiskDir. Skr. Ser. HavUnders. 14 (1): 36. 
  10. ^ A. Holt-Jensen (1985). "Norway and the sea: the shifting importance of marine resources through Norwegian history". GeoJournal 10 (4): 393–399. doi:10.1007/BF00461710. 
  11. ^ "Marine World - Will Atlantic cod ever recover". Retrieved 2010-09-22. 
  12. ^ Jeffrey A. Hutchings (200). "Collapse and recovery of marine fishes" (PDF). Nature 406 (6798): 882–885. doi:10.1038/35022565. PMID 10972288. 
  13. ^ "Atlantic Cod Endangered: Canadian Geographic Magazine". Retrieved 2010-09-22. 
  14. ^ "WWF - No more cod in 15 years, WWF report warns". 2004-05-13. Retrieved 2010-09-22. 
  15. ^ AVJonathan Tisdall  . "Cod not endangered species". Retrieved 2010-09-22. 
  16. ^ Bell, K.N.I. (2004 (Nov. 06)). "Bell, K.N.I. 2004. Special designation would protect Cod". St. John's Telegram. 
  17. ^ "WWF - The Barents Sea Cod - the last of the large cod stocks". 2004-05-10. Retrieved 2010-09-22. 
  18. ^ "Fisheries laying waste to endangered fish stocks". WWF Canada. September 20, 2005. Retrieved July 5, 2011. 
  19. ^ "WWF - Cod overfished in the North-West Atlantic despite ban". 2008-05-27. Retrieved 2010-09-22. 
  20. ^ Clover, Charles (2004). The End of the Line: How Overfishing Is Changing the World and What We Eat. London: Ebury Press. ISBN 0-09-189780-7. 
  21. ^ "Greenpeace International Seafood Red list". 2003-03-17. Retrieved 2010-09-22. 
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^ Kamisaka, Y., Jordal, A.E.O., Edvardsen, R.B., Kryvi, H., Otterlei, E., Rønnestad, I (2010). "A case report on the distended gut syndrome (DGS) in cultured larvae of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua)". Aquaculture 309: 38–48. doi:10.1016/j.aquaculture.2010.09.006. 
  25. ^ van der Meeren, T., Olsen, R.E., Hamre, K., Fyhn, H.J (2008). "Biochemical composition of copepods for evaluation of feed quality in production of juvenile marine fish". Aquaculture 274 (2–4): 375–397. doi:10.1016/j.aquaculture.2007.11.041. 
  26. ^ Hamre, K., Srivastava, A., Rønnestad, I., Mangor-Jensen, A., Stoss, J (2008). "Several micronutrients in the rotifer Brachionus sp. may not fulfil the nutritional requirements of marine fish larvae". Aquaculture Nutrition 14: 51–60. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2095.2007.00504.x. 
  27. ^ Hamre, K., Mollan, T.A., Sæle, Ø., Erstad, B (2008). "Rotifers enriched with iodine and selenium increase survival in Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) larvae". Aquaculture 284: 190–195. doi:10.1016/j.aquaculture.2008.07.052. 
  28. ^ Penglase, S., Nordgreen, A., van der Meeren, T., Olsvik, P., Sæle, O., Baeverfjord, G., Helland, S., Hamre, K (2010). "Increasing the level of selenium in rotifers (Brachionus plicatilis 'Cayman') enhances the mRNA expression and activity of glutathione peroxidase in Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua L.) larvae". Aquaculture 306: 259–269. doi:10.1016/j.aquaculture.2010.05.011. 

External links

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(Morrhua vulgaris)

Look at other dictionaries:

  • COD — COD; cod·ding·ton; cod·en; cod; cod·er; cod·i·cal; cod·i·cil; cod·i·cil·lary; cod·i·fi·ca·tion; cod·i·fy; cod·lins; cod·man; en·cod·er; li·ma·cod·i·dae; ly·cod·i·dae; mol·ly·cod·dler; os·tra·cod; pes·cod; sar·cod·ic; vo·cod·er; cod·dle; cod·ling; …   English syllables

  • Cod — bzw. CoD und COD bezeichnen: als Cod: Fische der Gattung: Microgadus, siehe Tomcod Gadus morhua, siehe Kabeljau Ruvettus pretiosus:„Cod Fish“; siehe Ölfisch USS Cod (SS 224), US amerikanisches U Boot als Abkürzung CoD oder COD: Demokratische… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Cod — Cod, n. [Cf. G. gadde, and (in Heligoland) gadden, L. gadus merlangus.] (Zo[ o]l.) An important edible fish ({Gadus morrhua}), taken in immense numbers on the northern coasts of Europe and America. It is especially abundant and large on the Grand …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • COD — steht für: USS Cod (SS 224), US amerikanisches U Boot als Abkürzung CoD oder COD: Call of Duty, Computerspiel Reihe Carrier Onboard Delivery, Verfahren zur Versorgung eines Flugzeugträgers auf See Cash on Delivery, Bezahlung im Nachnahmeverfahren …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Cod — Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. {{{image}}}   Sigles d une seule lettre   Sigles de deux lettres > Sigles de trois lettres …   Wikipédia en Français

  • COD — c.o.d. adj. (Commerce) an abbreviation of {collect on delivery}; payment due by the recipient on delivery; as, a COD parcel. [Also spelled {COD}.] Syn: collect, collect on delivery. [WordNet 1.5] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • cod — c.o.d. adj. (Commerce) an abbreviation of {collect on delivery}; payment due by the recipient on delivery; as, a COD parcel. [Also spelled {COD}.] Syn: collect, collect on delivery. [WordNet 1.5] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Cod — (k[o^]d), n. [AS. codd small bag; akin to Icel. koddi pillow, Sw. kudde cushion; cf. W. cod, cwd, bag, shell.] [1913 Webster] 1. A husk; a pod; as, a peascod. [Eng.] Mortimer. [1913 Webster] 2. A small bag or pouch. [Obs.] Halliwell. [1913… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • COD — abbrcash on delivery, collect on delivery Merriam Webster’s Dictionary of Law. Merriam Webster. 1996. COD abbreviation for cas …   Law dictionary

  • cod — Ⅰ. cod [1] (also codfish) ► NOUN (pl. same) ▪ a large marine fish with a small barbel on the chin, important as a food fish. ORIGIN perhaps the same word as Old English codd «bag», because of the fish s appearance. Ⅱ. cod [2] ► ADJE …   English terms dictionary

  • cod — cod1 [käd] n. pl. cod or cods [ME < ? COD2, in reference to shape] any of various gadoid fishes of northern seas, important as a source of cod liver oil and food, esp. any of a genus (Gadus) with firm flesh and soft fins, found off the coast… …   English World dictionary

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