St. Lawrence species

Atlantic cod

Gadus morhua

Type of resource

  • Bottom fish
  • Fish

Status of the resource

  • Endangered

In season

Most of the cod sold in Quebec comes from Europe. It is available processed all year round. Fresh fillets are sometimes available in summer and autumn.

SIZE : From 1 to 2 m.

LIFE EXPECTANCY : Up to 25 years.

LIFE CYCLE : Atlantic cod reach sexual maturity between 3 and 7 years, 35 to 85 cm in size.

Spawning takes place during the spring at a depth of approximately 150 m, possibly every year.

A 1-metre-long female can lay approximately 5 million eggs in the water column. However, less than one egg per million will live to become a mature cod.

Credit : Robert Baronet, photo taken in the Exploramer basins in 2010.

The Atlantic cod’s body color varies from grey to reddish brown with darker spots. Its lateral line is paler. Its body is broad in the middle and thinner towards the tail. Cod have 3 dorsal fins and 2 anal fins. It also has a barbel, which is an organ with gustatory and tactile sensory sensors. It can detect sweet, salty, bitter, and acidic foods.

The water column is usually between 100 m and 150 m in depth but can go as deep as 600 m.
The juveniles remain close to the bottom, in more shallow waters, in coastal meadows that protect them from predators.


Sand lances
Deepwater redfishs

Depending on its stage in life, cod will not have the same place in the trophic network*. The fry* feed on plankton, larvae, and small crustaceans. Young adult cod eat shrimp and small lobsters. Adult cod are voracious predator.



MACHINES : Gillnet, longline, trawl, jigger, handline.


  • Moratorium since 1992.
  • Quota of 1000 tons in the northern part of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

In the maritime regions of Quebec, cod was the mainstay of the economy. The fishing industry was developed thanks to this species. It was fished so much that its bio-mass collapsed. Since 2010, cod has been designated “species at risk of extinction” by the COSEWIC*. In 2023, the population in the southern part of the Gulf continued to decline while that in the northern part seemed to do a little better.

The virtues of cod liver oil have been well known for many years: a good source of vitamins A and D, which are a known cure for fatigue, as well being good for one’s eyesight, skin, etc.

Lean white flesh, which is moist and flaky.

Historically, cod was exported to Europe, dried and salted. The people of the Gaspe Peninsula would prepare meals with the leftovers, i.e. the head, jowls, and tongue. Certain chefs continue to bring these recipes to life.

Atlantic cod is an integral part of the Gaspe and Quebec culinary culture. However, as this fish is still at risk of extinction, we suggest you consume another species such as the silver hake until it is once again possible to fish for cod.


  • Given its endangered status, we do not recommend eating cod.