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)


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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.

In 2010, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) listed four subpopulations of Atlantic Cod as Endangered, and the population found in Canada’s Arctic marine waters as Data Deficient. These populations had declines that ranged from 64 to 99 per cent (depending on the region) over three generations. One of the biggest causes of this population decline is overfishing. 

According to Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the majority of Atlantic cod populations have been assessed as Critical, except for those found off of the south coast of Newfoundland which have been assessed as Cautious. Most of the Atlantic cod subpopulations have shown little or no signs of recovery since their population collapses in the early 1990s. Canada greatly needs a recovery plan to bring this iconic fish back to its coastal waters.

Oceana Canada is working to recover Canada’s fisheries, including cod. Find out more about our campaigns and join us in helping to bring abundance back to our oceans.