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up to 1.80 meter, usually up to 65 centimeters


up to 95 kilograms, usually up to 7 kilograms


greenish with a light sideline


up to 15 years


fish, shellfish, worms


predator fish, including larger cod, dolphins, people


lays eggs
maturity: 3-4 years
500,000 to 5 million eggs per year

  • Dut: Kabeljauw (dogger, gul, kolvis, labberdaan, muitje, stockvis)
  • Lat: Gadus morhua
  • Eng: Cod (codling)
  • Ger: Kabeljau (Dorsch)
  • Fren: Cabillaud, Morue
  • Dan: Torsk
Cod, Joachim S. Müller


Cod is a cold-water species which prefers water temperatures around 10°C. It is a large fish. Cod can grow up to more than 1.5 meters long. However, due to overfishing, such large fish are rarely found in the North Sea nowadays. Cod have a typical chin barbel, a kind of beard, which they use to search for food in the sea floor. These fish are sometimes referred to as the vacuum cleaners of the sea bottom because they eat virtually everything. You usually find them close to the bottom, but they also swim higher up in the water column. Young cod are called codling.

  • Largest cod ever

    In 1895, the largest cod ever was caught off the North American coast: 95 kilograms and 1.8 meters long. The Dutch sport fishing record is 1.3 meters. Due to overfishing is the average weight of cod nowadays one kilogram, the larger specimen are rarely heavier than 7 kilograms.

  • Reproduction and growth

    Female cod can lay 500 eggs per gram body weight. For a fish weighing 10 kilograms, that means 5 million eggs. Cod spawn in the winter months. The transparent 1.5 millimeter large transparent eggs rise to the upper water layers, where they hatch after 10 to 30 days, depending upon the temperature. Extremely young cod eat copepods. After reaching a length of 7 centimeters (within 3 - 5 months), they descend to the sea floor. This change in habitat also means a change in diet. Here they eat benthic animals, particularly shrimp and crabs. Adult animals eat mainly other fish (herring species, lesser sandeel, flatfish and other cod species). They do not eat much during the winter or spawning season.

  • Cod as consumption fish

    Cod is a very tasty fish with white meat. It contains little fat. Cod is considered the pig of the sea because all parts of the body are consumed. The liver is used for oil (cod liver oil) and the milt is sold fresh, smoked or canned. The remaining waste is often processed into fish meal. In Scandinavian countries, cod is often sold dried (stockfish) or dried and salted (dried cod). Since the days of the Vikings, dried cod has been an important basic food and trading article. Salted and dried cod is a favorite even in Portugal. Cod is having a difficult time in many areas due to overfishing.

  • Distribution of cod
    Spawning grounds and nurseries for cod, Ecomare

    The distribution area of cod contains the Northern Arctic Sea, the northeastern Atlantic Ocean, the Baltic Sea and the North Sea.

  • Cod fisheries in the North Sea
    Spawning stock and catch of cod (North Sea), Ecomare

    Cod is caught in many ways: with dragnets, standing rigging and lines. Due to intensive fishing in recent years, around half of the total cod population keeps being fished. Young cod in particular are caught unintentionally while fishing for plaice and sole. This makes it very difficult to make good agreements as to the maximum amount of cod to be fished in order to maintain (or regain) a healthy population. Since 1983, the population of adult cod in the North Sea has been under the level considered safe. The fact that so few adult cod swim in the North Sea endangers their reproduction.

    Another cause of the decline in cod is related to the fact that it is a cold-water fish which isn't very happy in a North Sea that is getting warmer. Yet, strict limitations for catches have led to a cautious recovery. In 2015, the spawning stock was at target level.