Pacific Cod: Other Total Cod Information

Pacific Cod: Other Total Cod Information

A poetic intersection between life and science, art and photography.

After stumbling on Adam Summers’ work a few months ago, I bought some of his calendars as Christmas presents. The calendars, which are beautifully photographed and robustly made, show the fish but lack information about them and, sadly, poetry is also lacking. That gave me the idea that I should post each month’s photo here, along with the poem and some relevant information. Professor Summers liked the idea, and the poet Sierra Nelson kindly agreed to share his poetry along with each photograph of the fish.

For the month of February, the featured fish image was an image of a Pacific cod, Gadus macrocephalus (above). These fish are also known as gray / gray cod and gray fish / gray fish. These fish are quite common in the North Pacific Ocean; huge scholars reside deep in the water column just above the continental shelf along the northern Pacific Ocean. They can reach a meter in length and weigh up to 15 kilograms. They are the apex predator in their ecosystem; the small cod eats crustaceans, while the larger cod eats fish. Breeding females release up to 5 million eggs, almost none of which survive to sexual maturity.

Cod has been a popular food since around 800 AD because its dense, flaky white meat has a mild flavor and is low in fat. Cod livers are pressed to release cod liver oil, which is rich in vitamins A and D, and various omega-3 fatty acids.

Atlantic cod, G. morhua, closely resembles Pacific cod in appearance and habits. Atlantic cod is widely consumed throughout much of Europe, and is a particular favorite in Portugal and the Basque Country and, along with haddock and plaice, is commonly used in fish and chips in Britain.

The popularity of Atlantic cod caused a series of conflicts between the United Kingdom and Iceland over the fishing rights of the North Atlantic. These skirmishes, which took place between 1958 and 1976, became known as the Cod Wars. They ended only after the UK accepted an exclusive 200 nautical mile Icelandic fishing zone.

Tragically, due to greed and overfishing, several Atlantic cod fisheries collapsed in 1992, losing more than 95 percent of their maximum historical biomass. One fishery, the Northwestern Fishery, has not recovered (and indeed may never recover) despite a moratorium on cod fishing. Because Atlantic cod was so numerous in these areas, they dominated their ecosystem with their single presence, so their sudden disappearance has serious and apparently permanent effects on the entire ecosystem.

Like it’s Atlantic cousins, Pacific cod is an important fishing target because the flavor and texture of its meat are similar to Atlantic cod. However, they do have an important difference; the Pacific cod fishery is strictly regulated and therefore sustainable.

Pacific cod

Gadus macrocephalus

Do you think it’s strange?

he [and] calls me gray cod?

Why not consider

my few cute mustaches

like a catfish?

You like to think of us as gray

like the day you will have us:

when you eat a plate of cod

like scrod, salty fish, fish sticks,

fried fish, fish cake, ball or finger,

lutefisk, stockfish, codfish,

Smokie, Fried, Finnan Haddie,

crappit heid and cullen skink,

cod liver oil or taxi driver’s claw.

We even do cheap isinglass:

our air bladders used to rinse the beer

or thicken your dessert.

Crawling for me

or by hook and line

you caught me well

But don’t let me collapse

like my Atlantic brothers.

Remember, we have caused wars.

We have disappeared before.