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Pacific Cod Research

image of pacific cod

Pacific cod (Gadus macrocephalus), also known as grey cod, are moderately fast growing and relatively short-lived fish, with a maximum age of approximately 18 years.Females reach 50% maturity at 4.4 years in the Gulf of Alaska and 4.9 years in the eastern Bering Sea (Stark, 2007).  Total body length at 50% maturity was significantly smaller (503 mm) in the Gulf of Alaska than in the eastern Bering Sea (580 mm).  Similarly, Pacific cod females grow significantly faster in the Bering Sea than in the Gulf of Alaska.  Males reach a smaller maximum length in the Gulf of Alaska than females; in contrast, Bering Sea males reach a similar maximum length as females.  Pacific cod are highly fecund and can produce up to 5.7 million ova each year.

Cod are demersal and concentrate on the shelf edge and upper slope (100-250 m) in the winter and move to shallower waters (<100 m) in the summer. Cod prey on clams, worms, crabs, shrimp, and juvenile fish. In turn, they are eaten by halibut and marine mammals. Pacific cod are taken with trawl, longline, pot, and jig gear. Cod begin to recruit to trawl fisheries at age 3, but are not fully recruited to all gear types until about age 7.

Pacific cod are managed under two Fishery Management Plans: one for the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands region and the other for the Gulf of Alaska region. The Fishery Management Plans control the fishery through permits and limited entry, catch quotas, gear restrictions, closed waters, seasons, bycatch limits and rates, and other measures.

During 2012, pollock made up 61.9% of the total groundfish catch off Alaska.  The pollock catch for 2012 was 1,310,330 metric tons (t), up approximately 2% from 2011.

The 2012 catch of flatfish, which includes yellowfin sole, rock sole and arrowtooth flounder, was 321,530 t or 15.2% of the total 2012 Alaska groundfish catch, down about 2% from 2011.

Pacific cod accounted for 329,040 t or 15.5% of the total 2012 Alaska groundfish catch.  The Pacific cod catch was up about 8% from a year earlier.

Other important species (% of total 2012 catch and % change from 2011) are:  Atka mackerel 49,020 t (2.3%, down 8%),
sablefish 13,850 t (0.7%, up 7%), and rockfish 55,450 t (2.6%, up 8%).

Recent Pacific Cod Publications, Poster Presentations, & Research Activities

  • NICHOL, D. G., S. KOTWICKI, and M. ZIMMERMANN. 2013. Diel vertical migration of adult Pacific cod Gadus macrocephalus in Alaska. J. Fish Biol. 83:170-189. 
  • SPIES, I. 2012. Landscape genetics reveals population subdivision in Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Pacific cod. Trans. Am. Fish. Soc. 141:1557-1573. 
  • WEST, C. F., S. WISCHNIOWSKI, and C. JOHNSTON. 2012. Pacific cod (Gadus macrocephalus) as a paleothermometer: Otolith oxygen isotope reconstruction. J. Archaeol. Sci. 39:3277-3283. 
  • URBAN, D. 2012. Food habits of Pacific cod and walleye pollock in the northern Gulf of Alaska. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 469:215-222. 
  • LAUREL, B. J., L. A. COPEMAN, and C. C. PARRISH. 2012. Role of temperature on lipid/fatty acid composition in Pacific cod (Gadus macrocephalus) eggs and unfed larvae. Mar. Biol. 159:2025-2034. 
  • LAUREL, B. J., T. P. HURST, and L. CIANNELLI. 2011. An experimental examination of temperature interactions in the match–mismatch hypothesis for Pacific cod larvae. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 68:51-61. 
  • Climate Change Impacts on Predator-prey Dynamics in the Bering Sea: Changes to Foraging Rate and Prey Demand of Walleye Pollock, Pacific Cod, and Arrowtooth Flounder
    Conference:  Alaska Marine Science Symposium, Anchorage, AK, Jan 2014
    (2014 poster, .pdf, 1.35 MB)   Online.

  • Age Validation of Pacific Cod (Gadus macrocephalus) Using Stable Oxygen Isotopes (d 18O) (2014 poster)
    Conference:  Alaska Marine Science Symposium, Anchorage, AK, Jan 2014
    (2014 poster, .pdf, 4.04 MB)   Online.

  • Otolith Microchemical Fingerprinting: Assessing Juvenile Pacific Cod Habitat Utilization in the Gulf of Alaska

  • Preliminary Age Validation of Pacific Cod Using Stable Oxygen Isotope (d18O) Signatures in Otoliths

  • The Effects of Climate Regimes on the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Pacific Cod Longline Fishery

  • Additional publications, posters, and reports.

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