Juvenile Cod

Atlantic cod

Latin name: Gadus morhua
Global Distribution: Atlantic Ocean
UK Distribution: All around the coasts of Britain and Ireland, as far south as the Bay of Biscay and to the north Barents Sea
Size: Up to 2m
Minimum landing size (UK): 35cm
Diet: Zooplankton and small crustaceans
Habitat: Sandy bottoms (shoreline to 600m depth) – Cold temperate waters
Sources: Sophie Elliot, Glasgow University for COAST website

Gadoid species such as cod and haddock are most known for a typical dish the British know and love – fish and chips! However, the demand for these species is high across Europe and indeed the world which has led to the collapse in many stocks. Demand for cod has been high since the middle of the 19th century; however following a crash in cod in the 1990s various measures have been put in place to improve their situation. North Sea stocks are thought to be improving now, however the UK’s west coast stocks are still low.

Identified by their speckled brown colour, three dorsal fins, white lateral line and chin barbell, cod live in demersal waters (the area of the water column close to the seabed). Cod reach maturity between the age of 2-4 years, where the adults aggregate into spawning groups to renew the life cycle. Cod can grow up to two meters and live up to 25 years. The minimum landing size for cod in the UK is 35 cm, however targeted fishing for cod in the Firth of Clyde is prohibited due to low numbers (Barreto and Bailey, 2013).

Fun facts

  • Cod use their swim bladders to make grunting sounds to ‘speak’ to other cod and different populations speak with regional accents.
  • They can play host to over 100 different parasites
  • The “Sacred Cod” is a 1.5m long wooden carving of an Atlantic Cod that hangs in the House of Representatives Chamber of Boston’s Massachusetts State House. It represent the importance of the cod fishery to the welfare of Massachusetts.