Cod Species

Cod is the commonly used name to describe the whitefish from the family “Gadidae”. Cod is a cold water fish that is usually found near the bottom of waters as diverse as deep oceans to inshore and coastal regions. Cod is a species evolved and adapted for bottom feeding, but they can be easily found at any depth between the sea-bed and the surface.

Cod is primarily a predator and feeds on other fish and will migrate on a regular basis. Cod are usually dark in colour and are easily identifiable by their three rounded dorsal fins and two anal fins that are almost symetrical to the second and third dorsals. They also have a prominent barbell (“whisker”) on the chin.

There are 3 main species of Cod:

1) Atlantic cod- Gadus morhua
2) Pacific cod- Gadus macrocephalus
3) Greenland cod- Gadus ogac

1: The Atlantic Cod (Gadus morhua):

The Atlantic Cod can grow up to 2 meters in length and is the largest population of cod in the oceans and is commonly found in coastal waters with depths of 500 to 600 metres, as well as in the open ocean. Atlantic Cod is found off the North and Eastern coast of North America and stretches across the Atlantic to the waters of the North Sea and the Barents Sea. The Atlantic Cod is also abundant all around the coast of Great Britain.

Atlantic cod tend to travel in schools and they will spawn between January and April; a female will release millions of eggs that the males fight over to fertilise. Eggs will hatch within a month and the young cod then drift in the ocean currents whilst feeding on krill Depending on the temperature, the eggs hatch in two to four weeks and the young cod drift in the open ocean, feeding on krill and small fish. Cod mature into adult fish between 2 and 4 years in the Atlantic.
North East Atlantic cod stocks have been overfished and have been in decline in recent years and scientists have stated that cod populations in this area is on the verge of collapse unless fishing is banned or heavily controlled – as a result, catch quotas restricting the amount of cod that can be fished have been introduced to varying levels. It has been estimatd that cod populations for the Atlantic cod are only one percent of what they were in the late 1970s. Recent statistics published by the European Environment Agency (EEA) stated that the cod stock in the North Sea is at high risk of collapse and that the populations are so low they are below safe biological limits.

2: The Pacific Cod (Gadus macrocephalus):

The Pacific Cod is almost indistinguishable from the Atlantic Cod and has three dorsal fins and has the typical chin barbel (“whiskers”) prominently visible on the chin. The Pacific cod tends to have a lighter shade of colouring on the sides when compared to the Atlantic cod (both can be confused when purchasing from fish markets).


Adult Pacific Cod feed on fishes, octopi, and large crustaceans and will typically grow to 60 centimetres in length with a weight of 2.5 to 3.6 kilograms.

The Pacific Cod swims in enormous schools and can be found along the continental shelf and upper slopesof the North Pacific stretching from the Yellow Sea to the Eastern Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands. The Pacific cod can also be found off the length of the west coast of Canada.

The Northwest Pacific have had more success in maintaining cod levels due to tight regulations of fishing and strict limits on the size of catches permitted and the Pacific cod fishery is reported to be successfully managed with healthy stocks – catches are monitored and any fishery found exceeding the permitted catch quotas are closed.

The flesh of the Pacific cod is less firm than that of the Atlantic cod.

3: The Greenland Cod (Gadus ogac ):

The Greenland cod has a similar physical appearance to other species of cod, but is usually smaller and rounder in shape, and can appear more dull in its colouring. It will grow up to 80 cemtimeters in length in the right conditions. The Greenland cod is also known as rock cod, ogac, piolet, fjordtorsk and uvac. 


The Greenland cod is a non-schooling and non-migratory fish. It can be found at the bottom of continential shelves and inshore water in cold temperate to arctic waters, such as the North Pole, the Arctic, and Greenland. The Greenland cod feeds on fish and crustaceans and is found close to the coast at depths of 0m-200m, and is reported to be able to live to 12 years.