Pacific Cod

Pacific Cod
Common Name Pacific Cod
Market Name Alaska cod, grey cod, true cod, P-cod
Scientific name Gadus macrocephalus

Sourcing Summary


5-15 lbs.

The quality of Pacific cod can vary substantially depending on how well it was handled at sea. The highest quality is produced by freezer longliners, which process fish on board a short time after bringing it aboard. Factory trawlers can produce a high-quality product as well, if tows are short and fish is processed promptly. Most Alaskan trawlers delivering to shore-based processing plants hold their fish in refrigerated seawater tanks. Since the fish is not bled, its meat is normally not as white. Buyers should note that most all of the Pacific cod from the U.S. West Coast is marketed as fresh fillets while Pacific cod from Alaska is nearly all frozen. 

Pacific Cod Sustainability

Key sustainability sourcing notes for Pacific cod based on landings from 2016-2017 and the most recent Seafood Watch assessments and MSC certifications as of September, 2019:

  • ~70% of global Pacific cod landings meet a Seafood Watch "Best Choice (green)" recommendation (longline, trawl, and pot-caught from Alaska) 
  • ~70% of global Pacific cod landings are MSC-certified (longline, trawl, pot, and jig-caught from Alaska)
  • Within Alaska, ~75% of the landings come from the Bering Sea Aleutian Islands (BSAI) and ~25% from the Gulf of Alaska (GOA)
  • Across both the BSIA and GOA landings by gear are ~50% longline, ~30% trawl, , ~20% pot/trap, ~1% jig
  • <1% of global Pacific cod landings meet the "Good Alternative (yellow)" rating (British Columbia & U.S. West Coast)
  • ~30% of global Pacific cod landings meet the "Avoid (red)" rating (Russia & Japan) 
  • <2% of global Pacific cod landings are unrated (Korea)
  • Annual global landings in 2016 & 2017 fluctuated very little

Product Forms

Product Forms
Fillet (skin-on, boneless)
Fillet (skinless, boneless)
Whole (Dressed)
Product Forms
Fillet (skin-on, boneless)
Fillet (skinless, boneless)
Whole (Dressed)

Fresh Seasonal Availability


Culinary Composition







Cooking Methods


Nutrition facts

Serving Size: 100g
Amount per serving
Calories 82
Total Fat 0.63g
Cholesterol 37mg
Sodium 71mg
Carbohydrates 0g
Protein 17.9g
Omega-3 185mg


Pacific cod have a relatively short life of less than 20 years. They grow quickly, up to over 6 feet in length (although cod of this size are rare). Females are able to reproduce when they’re 4 to 5 years old (between 1.6 and 1.9 feet in length). Depending on their location, Pacific cod spawn from January through May on the shelf edge and upper slope in water 330 to 820 feet deep. They’re typically fertile; in fact, female cod can produce over 1 million eggs. After eggs are fertilized, they sink to the bottom and larvae begin to hatch within a month.

Pacific cod school together and move seasonally from deep outer and upper shelf areas where they spawn to shallow middle-upper shelf feeding grounds. They feed on clams, worms, crabs, shrimp, and juvenile fish. Halibut, sharks, seabirds, and marine mammals prey on Pacific cod. Pacific cod is also a major part of the diet of Steller sea lions.

Pacific cod are also known as grey cod because of their coloring – they’re brown or grayish with dark spots or patterns on the sides and a paler belly. They have a long chin barbell (a whisker-like organ near the mouth, like on a catfish) and dusky fins with white edges.

Species Habitat

Pacific cod are found in the coastal North Pacific Ocean, from the Bering Sea to Southern California in the east and to the Sea of Japan in the west. Pacific cod are less common south of Northern California and are rare in Southern California. Pacific cod live on the shelf edge and upper slope in waters 300 to over 800 feet deep during the winter and move to shallower waters (less than 300 feet deep) in the summer. Larvae and small juveniles are found throughout the water column; large juveniles and adults live near the ocean floor and prefer habitats of mud, sand, and clay.

Science & Management


In Alaska, scientists and managers determine the population status of Pacific cod based on estimates of “spawning biomass,” a measure of the number of females in the population that are able to reproduce. Estimated biomass has fluctuated over the past few decades – the stock increased rapidly, peaked in the 1980s, then declined slightly and stabilized. Both Alaska stocks are near their target population levels, and biomass is projected to increase further in the next few years. The West Coast population of Pacific cod has never been formally assessed. Pacific cod are rarely available in this area in large numbers.

Changes in climate may be affecting the abundance of Pacific cod. Scientists at NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center and Oregon State University are working together to determine how climate change could impact growth and development of young Pacific cod in the Bering Sea. They will examine how temperature differences influence the timing and size of plankton blooms in the Bering Sea, which help determine the quality of habitat for Pacific cod.


The North Pacific Fishery Management Council develops regulations for the Alaska Pacific cod fisheries; the Pacific Fishery Management Council develops regulations for the fisheries off Washington and Oregon. NOAA Fisheries is responsible for approving and implementing these regulations.

In Alaska waters, Pacific cod fisheries are managed separately, but similarly, in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands and in the Gulf of Alaska. Fishermen must have a permit to participate in these fisheries, and the number of available permits is limited to control the amount of fishing. Every year, managers determine how much Pacific cod can be caught and then allocate this catch quota among groups of fishermen. Catch is monitored through record keeping, reporting requirements, and observer monitoring.

Pacific cod are rarely available in large numbers to be caught in the groundfish fishery off the West Coast. Managers use recent historical harvest numbers to set precautionary limits on annual catch for this population. The West Coast groundfish trawl fishery is now managed under a trawl rationalization catch share program.

Harvest Methods

Conservation Criteria - Wild

Impact on Stock

Pacific cod is fished off the West Coast of the U.S. as well as in Canada, Alaska, Russia, and Japan. It grows quickly and can produce several hundred thousand eggs per year, making it resilient to fishing pressure, although it does form dense spawning aggregations that make large catches more likely. Overall inherent vulnerability is a moderate concern, according to Seafood Watch.

Pacific cod abundance has fluctuated, but the most recent stock assessments for the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska showed that it was not overfished and overfishing was not occurring. The West Coast stock has never been formally assessed because the numbers are rarely big enough, according to the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service. Seafood Watch reports from 2014 for Pacific cod noted a lack of independent Pacific cod stock assessments for Japan, and uncertainty about whether surveys and stock assessments conducted in Russia are scientifically independent.

Habitat impacts (Wild)

The majority of Pacific cod in the U.S. and Canada is caught along with other groundfish using trawlers and bottom longlines. Trawling can do moderate damage to ocean habitats, particularly deep-water corals and sea whips. Seafood Watch noted that the U.S. and Canadian Pacific cod fisheries have spatial restrictions limiting the use of bottom trawl gear in order to mitigate the impact. Pot and jig gear are also used to a lesser extent, and they have minimal impacts. In Japan, Pacific cod are caught with gear that includes Danish seines and bottom trawls. While data on the habitat impact is sparse, Seafood Watch reported in 2014 that fishing moratoriums offer protection for deep-sea habitats there. Pacific cod in Russia are caught using bottom trawl, longline, gillnet, and seine gear. A 2014 Seafood Watch report noted concerns about the effects of trawling on sensitive substrate in the Russian fishery.


Bottom longlines in this fishery have accidentally caught endangered and threatened seabirds, but measures that include the Seabird Bycatch Reduction Program in Alaska and bycatch monitoring through the West Coast Groundfish Trawl Catch Share Program are having an impact, according to the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service. Bycatch is also reduced with the use of pots, although they make up a small percentage of the gear used.

Bycatch data in the Japanese Pacific cod fishery is poor and not collected by a regulatory agency or research organization, according to a 2014 Seafood Watch report. Lack of data in the Russian Pacific cod fishery, along with concerns about marine mammal bycatch, led Seafood Watch to give the fishery a critical rating in 2014 for that criterion.

Management effectiveness

The U.S. West Coast cod fishery falls under the non-hake groundfish fishery, which has management that is considered strong according to a 2014 Seafood Watch report. The report also cites measures that include biomass reference points, harvest control rules, and catch limits. Management in the Alaskan Pacific cod fishery is considered to be highly effective and includes catch limits, observer counts, closures, and permits. 

Seafood Watch considers the Canadian Pacific cod fishery management moderately effective. Despite some strong points, a 2014 report noted challenges with management strategy, implementation, and recovery of stocks of concern in the British Columbia groundfish fishery.

The Fisheries Agency of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries manages Pacific cod in Japan.  Although bottom trawling and Danish seining are banned in coastal areas, Seafood Watch noted a general lack of management and expressed high concern about bycatch in a 2014 report.

In Russia, the Federal Fisheries Agency oversees the Pacific cod fishery. Management measures include setting total allowable catch levels, collecting scientific data, and restricting gear. While there has been documentation of illegal fishing, Seafood Watch noted that several changes to the law improved Russia’s enforcement capabilities. Data unavailability in general continues to be a concern, according to Seafood Watch.

Conservation Criteria - Farmed

Origin Method Ratings
Canada - British Columbia Bottom Longline  
Canada - British Columbia Pots  
Canada - British Columbia Trawl  
Japan - Hokkaido (South) Boat Seine    
Japan - Hokkaido (South) Gillnet    
Japan - Hokkaido (South) Longline  
Japan - Hokkaido (West) Boat Seine  
Japan - Hokkaido (West) Gillnet    
Japan - Hokkaido (West) Longline    
Japan - North Pacific Boat Seine    
Japan - North Pacific Longline    
Japan - North Pacific Gillnet  
Japan - North Pacific Bottom Trawls    
Japan - North Pacific Weirs  
Japan - Sea of Japan Boat Seine    
Japan - Sea of Japan Gillnet    
Japan - Sea of Japan Weirs  
Japan - Sea of Okhotsk Gillnet  
Japan - Sea of Okhotsk Longline    
Japan - Sea of Okhotsk Bottom Trawls    
Russia Bottom Trawls    
Russia Boat Seine  
Russia Longline    
Unassessed Origin Unassessed Fishing Methods  
USA - Alaska - Bering Sea (MSC) Bottom Trawls      
USA - Alaska - Bering Sea (MSC) Jig      
USA - Alaska - Bering Sea Aleutian Islands Longline      
USA - Alaska - Bering Sea Aleutian Islands Bottom Trawls      
USA - Alaska - Bering Sea Aleutian Islands Pots      
USA - Alaska - Gulf of Alaska Longline      
USA - Alaska - Gulf of Alaska Bottom Trawls      
USA - Alaska - Gulf of Alaska Pots      
USA - Alaska - Gulf of Alaska (MSC) Jig      
USA - West Coast Trawl  
Name Country State / Province
7 Seas Fish Co., Ltd. Canada British Columbia
Akulurak, LLC. United States Washington
Alaska Wild Caught Seafood LLC United States Idaho
Alaskan Leader Seafoods, LLC. United States Washington
Alaskan Premium Seafoods, LLC. United States Michigan
Allseas Fisheries Corp. Canada Ontario
Alyeska Seafoods, Inc. United States Washington
American Fish & Seafood Company United States California
Aqua Star United States Washington
Aqualine Seafoods Ltd. Canada British Columbia
Arctic Fisheries Ltd. United States New York
Barlean's Fishery, Inc. United States Washington
Blue North Fisheries, Inc. United States Washington
Blue Ribbon Meats United States Ohio
Blundell Seafoods Canada British Columbia
Bornstein Seafoods Inc. United States Oregon
Bristol Seafood United States Maine
Calkins & Burke Canada British Columbia
Canadian Fishing Company Canada British Columbia
Cape Greig, LLC. United States Washington
Catalina Offshore Products United States California
Catanese Classic Seafood United States Ohio
Channel Fish Processing Company, Inc. United States Massachusetts
Channel Seafoods International United States Florida
City Fish Canada Alberta
Clear Springs Foods, Inc United States Idaho
Clipper Seafoods, Ltd. United States Washington
Clipper Ship, Inc. United States Washington
Coal Point Seafood Company United States Alaska
Codfathers Seafood Market Canada British Columbia
Daily Seafood Inc. Canada Ontario
Deep Sea Fisheries, Inc United States Washington
Ed's Kasilof Seafoods United States Alaska
En Gros Pierre Canada Quebec
Euclid Fish Company United States Ohio
Export Packers Company Limited Canada Ontario
F/V Beauty Bay United States Washington
FishPeople Seafood United States Oregon
Flying Fish Company United States Oregon
Fortune Fish & Gourmet United States Illinois
FreshCatch United States California
Glacier Fish Company, LLC. United States Washington
Global Seafoods North America United States Washington
Halperns' Purveyors of Steak and Seafood United States Georgia
Icicle Seafoods, Inc. United States Washington
Imperial Seafood and Shellfish Inc. United States Ohio
Intercity Packers Meat & Seafood Canada British Columbia
International Seafoods of Alaska, Inc. United States Alaska
Iquique U.S., L.L.C. United States Washington
J&B Sales Co, LLC United States Washington
John Nagle Co. United States Massachusetts
Kodiak Island WildSource United States Alaska
Kodiak Jig Seafoods United States Alaska
L&L International Inc. United States California
Lotus Seafood Inc. United States California
Lusamerica Foods, Inc. United States California
M&B Sea Products, Inc. United States Massachusetts
Marder Trawling, Inc. United States Massachusetts
Marinelli Shellfish Co. United States Washington
Mariner Neptune Canada Manitoba
Maximum Seafood Canada Ontario
Mikuni Wild Harvest United States Washington
Monterey Fish Market United States California
Northeast Seafood Products, Inc. United States Colorado
Northern Lakes Seafood & Meats United States Michigan
Northport Fisheries Inc. United States Washington
Northwest Fresh Seafood Company United States Oregon
NOVA Fisheries / SunWave Processors United States Washington
Ocean Beauty Seafoods LLC United States Washington
Orca Bay Seafoods, Inc. United States Washington
Pacific Harvest Seafoods United States California
Pacific Seafood Group, Inc. United States Oregon
Pike Place Fish Market United States Washington
Precious Cargo Seafood Company United States Oregon
Profish Ltd. United States District of Columbia
Romanzof Fishing Co. LLC United States Washington
Sam Rust Seafood United States Virginia
Sammy's Seafood Inc United States Florida
Samuels & Son Seafood Company, Inc. United States Pennsylvania
Santa Monica Seafood, Inc. United States California
Sea Forager Seafood United States California
Sea to Table, USA United States New York
Seacore Seafood Inc. Canada Ontario
Seafood Merchants Ltd. United States Illinois
Seattle Fish Company United States Colorado
Seattle Fish Company - Kansas City United States Missouri
Seattle Fish Company of New Mexico United States New Mexico
Shelford's Boat Ltd. United States Washington
SHS, LLC. United States Colorado
Sitka Salmon Shares United States Illinois
Slade Gorton & Co Inc. United States Massachusetts
Sleeping Giant Inc. United States Washington
Small Scales Seafood United States Alaska
SOGDA Limited, Inc. United States Washington
Star Fisheries Inc. United States California
Stavis Seafoods United States Massachusetts
Tai Foong USA United States Washington
Thalassa Seafoods Belgium
The Alaska Guys Singapore
The Fish Guys Inc. United States Minnesota
The Fishin' Company United States Pennsylvania
The Hadley Company United States Massachusetts
Tonka Seafoods, Inc. United States Alaska
Tradex Foods Inc. Canada British Columbia
Trident Seafoods Corp. United States Washington
Vital Choice Wild Seafood & Organics United States Washington
Whidbey Island Seafood Company United States Washington
Whitecap International Seafood Exporters Canada Newfoundland and Labrador
Wild Alaska Salmon and Seafood Company United States Alaska
Wild For Salmon United States Pennsylvania
ZF America United States Washington