Atlantic Cod | Oceana Canada

Canadian Marine Life Encyclopedia

Atlantic Cod

Gadus morhua

Also known as

Cod, codling, codfish, bank cod, scrod, northern cod


Temperate to sub-polar waters on the continental shelf in the North Atlantic


Heterogeneous habitats

Feeding Habits

Active predator

Conservation Status



Order Gadiformes (cods and relatives), Family Gadidae (true cods)


Facebook Twitter Pinterest Google+

Cod is an iconic species that has played an important role throughout Canada’s history. It used to be the country’s largest—and arguably the most important—fishery. Cod was so significant to the economy of Atlantic Canada that it was called “Newfoundland currency.” From the time the New World was discovered up until the cod collapse in the 1990s, this fish was the dominant commercial species of the Northwest Atlantic Ocean. Today, populations in certain areas, notably the northern cod found off the southern coast of Labrador and the northeastern coast of Newfoundland, are beginning to show early signs of a comeback.

Atlantic cod are a heavy-bodied fish with a classic streamlined shape. They have a large head with a protruding upper jaw and a very distinct barbel (like a whisker) on their chin. Along with their close relatives, Atlantic cod are the only group of fish that have three distinct dorsal fins along their backs, and two distinct anal fins along their underside. 

They range in colour from yellowish-green to red and olive browns, with darker speckles and spots along the upper half of their body. Atlantic cod also have an obvious pale (cream-coloured) lateral line that runs along each side of their body from near the eye to the tail.