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Atlantic Cod (Gadus morhua)

cod graphic; 9k

Cod on the Ledge: Cod are present on Jeffreys Ledge year-round. They have been the basis for New England fisheries for many years, and have been fished on the Ledge since the 1800's. Fishing started as long-lining or tub-trawling from two person dories, and has led up to the modern mechanized fleet. Now, however, the Gulf of Maine Cod stock has been indicated to be on the verge of collapse. In order to protect the remaining fish and help the stock recover, severe restrictions have been placed on cod fishing and landing. In Canada, the catch of cod was shut down entirely. Because of their long-standing importance, however, they remain the oficial fish of Massachusetts, where a large wodden cod hangs in the state house.

Size: Cod can grow to great sizes, and have been caught to lengths of six feet and weights of up to 200 punds. While this great size is rare, early fishermen report regular catches of 100 pound cod. Today. Most cod are between six and twelve pounds as adults, and weigh between four and ten pounds. They are typically brownish-green in color, and have two prominent 'barbels' (whiskers) on their chin.

Diet: Adult cod feed on a wide range of animals, but are most often found to feed on on capelin, herring, sand launce, flounders, young Greenland turbot, crabs, shrimp, brittle stars, combjellies, and a host of other species of fish and shellfish. mollusks. Juveniles feed mainly on shrimp, amphipods, euphausiids, and fish and shellfish larvae. In fact, a cod will eat almost anything including stones so that it can digest the sea anemones, hydroids, and other organisms growing on them.

Habitat: Atlantic cod are found over relatively shallow water (typically 40 - 150 feet), but can be found in some deeper areas (they can dive to 1500 feet!). They are often found over rocky bottom areas with sudden depth changes (called "areas of high relief") in the lower portion of the water column (usually within 10 feet of the bottom). While larvae and young juveniles may use the upper portion of the ocean, they sink to the bottom at less than a year of age, where they will remain for most of the rest of their lives. A single spawning cod female can produce between two and ten million eggs, the large majority of which will die before reaching adulthood.

Predators: Spiny dogfish (sand sharks) and bluefish are the primary predators of adult cod; when younger and smaller, a number of other fish species (cod, haddock, pollack, and silver hake) are all cod predators.

Range: From The Grand banks in Newfoundland to Cape Cod, with some found in deep water as far south as Cape Hatteras.

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