Cod (morrhua, Cuv.), a genus of soft-rayed fishes belonging to the family of gadida, characterized by an elongated, smooth body, compressed toward the tail; three dorsal fins; ventral fins pointed; abdominal line with two fins behind the vent; the lower jaw with one barbule on the chin. There are eight species described as occurring in North America. The American cod (M. Americana, Storer) is the common species of the New England coast, ranging from New York to the St. Lawrence river.
Cod (Morrhua Americana).
The color of the back in the living fish is a light olive-green, becoming pale ash in dead specimens, covered with numerous reddish or yellowish spots to a short distance below the lateral line; beneath it is dusky white. The color of this species, however, is variable; some are of a greenish brown hue with few spots; others, called rock cod, are of a bright red color; some are very dark, others very light and greenish. This species grows to a great size; the largest specimen alluded to by Dr. Storer, in his "Report on the Fisheries of Massachusetts," weighed 107 lbs.; the average weight is about 8 lbs. - The common or bank cod (M. vulgaris, Linn.), well known the world over as an article of food, is taken on the Grand bank, in the deep water off the coast of Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and Labrador, and indeed is met with from the coast of Maine to lat. 67° N. It is a thick, heavy fish, sometimes attaining a weight of 90 lbs. The color varies considerably, but is generally a greenish brown, fading into ash in the dead fish, with numerous reddish yellow spots; the belly is silvery opaque white, the fins pale green, and the lateral line dead white. - A third species, the tomcod (M. tom-codus, Mitchill), is found along the American coast from New York northwardly to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, at all seasons of the year; it frequently ascends rivers.
It varies in length from 6 to 12 inches. The colors also vary exceedingly, being generally brownish above with spots of a darker hue, and lighter beneath. The tomcod is caught from wharves and bridges by almost any bait; in the winter large numbers are taken in dip nets at the mouths of rivers. The cod is abundant along the N. Pacific coast, particularly in the region of Alaska. It also swarms along the W. and N. shores of Norway, in the Baltic, off the Orkney and Western islands, and on the S. and W. coasts of Iceland. It is an exceedingly voracious fish, devouring indiscriminately everything in its way in the shape of small fish, Crustacea, and marine worms and shell fish. Indeed, the cod is the great collector of deep-sea specimens, otherwise unattainable; and many are the specimens of rare and new shells which naturalists have obtained from its capacious stomach. - The cod is very prolific. A cod roe has more than once been found to be half the gross weight of the fish; and specimens of the female have been caught with upward of 8,000,000 eggs. Were all these to come to maturity, a pair of cod would in a few years fill the ocean; but only a portion of the eggs are fertilized, and only a small percentage of the fish ever arrives at maturity.
The cod spawns in midwinter, but its habits have not been observed with sufficient accuracy to determine when it becomes reproductive. The best authorities hold that it is an animal of slow growth, and that it is at least three years old before it is able to propagate. A question of great interest is, whether it is possible by over-fishing to exhaust the cod fisheries either partially or entirely? As yet no serious impression appears to have been made on the bank fishery, after 3 1/2 centuries of ceaseless fishing. The same, however, cannot be asserted in regard to the shore fishery, at least at certain points; and the frequent complaints of late years of the scarcity of fish in certain bays, as compared with former times, and the numerous failures in the summer fishery, awaken the suspicion that the perpetual drafts, year after year, without any interval for recruiting, have seriously reduced the number of codfish in certain localities. The scarcity of cod in Conception and Trinity bays, and other places, of late years, as compared with former times, is generally allowed; and the bulk of the population of these bays now proceed to Labrador for their summer fishing.
The theory of the migration of fish, once a general notion, is now known to be a popular delusion, and has been abandoned by all scientific naturalists. The migratory instinct in fish is ascertained to be very limited, merely leading them to move about a little from their feeding ground to their spawning ground - from deep to shallow water. In fact there are in the world of waters great fish colonies, as there are great seats of population on land; and these colonies are stationary, having comparatively but a limited range of water in which to live and die. All around the shores of Newfoundland are numerous banks, or submarine elevations, of greater or less extent, which constitute the feeding and breeding grounds of the cod; and each of these has its own fish colony that live and die within a limited range of their own habitat. They do not intermingle with other colonies or invade their domains. This is proved by the well known fact that the cod of different localities arc marked by distinctive features and qualities; the cod, for example, of Placentia bay being quite distinguishable from that taken in Bonavista bay.
So, too, the vast fish colonies of the great banks, at a considerable distance from the shores, differ from shore fish, being larger and finer, and, except a few adventurous individuals that roam from home, are not found at any distance from the place of their birth. The bank and shore fish keep to their respective homes. If heavy drafts are made on the smaller colonies around the shores and in the bays, in the course of years these will become seriously diminished in numbers. Facts seem to indicate that this is the case in many localities at present. The average catch of codfish now is not greater than it was 50 years ago, though many thousand more hands are now engaged in fishing. - Cod fishing is an important branch of industry, the Roman Catholic countries of Europe, South America, and the West Indies furnishing a ready market. The great resort of the American, Nova Scotian, and French fishermen is the Grand bank of Newfoundland, and the banks E. and S. E. of Nova Scotia, which may be distinguished as the western banks, the westernmost being known specifically as the Western bank. The Miquelon islands and St. Pierre, off the S. coast of Newfoundland, belonging to France, are the rendezvous of the vessels of that nation.
Of the United States, Massachusetts is the most extensively engaged in the fishery, the principal ports being those on Cape Cod, with Plymouth, Kingston, Marblehead, Beverly, and Gloucester. Maine comes next by a long interval, the principal places engaged being Portland, Wiscasset, Boothbay, Waldoborough, Belfast, Castine (employing more vessels than any other town in the state), and the ports about Frenchman's bay. Gloucester is the great fishing port of the country. A few vessels from this town make winter trips, from three to five weeks in length, to the Western bank, the number increasing after the beginning of February. In this month also fishing commences on Georges bank (S. E. of Massachusetts), the trips averaging three or four weeks. The Georges fleet is largest in March, begins to decrease in April, and almost disappears in June. As the weather grows milder and the Georges fleet diminishes, the Gloucester vessels commence their trips to the fishing grounds off Cape Sable and Cape North, in the gulf of St. Lawrence, and on the Western and Grand banks. The trips to the Grand bank rarely exceed 12 weeks in length, those to the western banks 9 weeks. The Cape Cod vessels do not engage in winter fishing.
About five sixths of them sail for the banks during the first half of April, and make two trips, or "fares," arriving on their first fare early in June, sailing again the last of that month, and arriving on their second fare the latter part of August or first of September. The remaining sixth sail about the middle of May, and make but one fare, arriving in August or September. Provincetown vessels, however, all make one long trip to the Grand bank, sailing in April, and sometimes prolonging their stay until October. Marblehead and Beverly vessels that make two fares arrive on their first fare in July or August, and on their last in November. The vessels employed are schooners of from 45 to 100 tons, averaging GO or 70. The number of the crew varies from 9 to 14, sometimes exceeding the latter number. The bank fishermen all use dories, or flat-bottomed boats, which are sent out, usually twice a day, a short distance from the vessel, which lies at anchor on the fishing ground. The larger proportion (perhaps three fourths) of the Massachusetts vessels use trawls, which are set and hauled periodically. The trawl consists of a long line anchored and buoyed at each end, with hooks, generally several hundred in number, adjusted at intervals.
The trawlers use dories about 15 ft. in length, usually carrying one for every two men. The fishermen that use hand lines carry a dory 12 1/2 ft. long for each man except the cook, and in the largest vessels the "skipper," as the captain is called. Owing to the strong tide on Georges bank, the fishermen do not use dories there, but fish directly from the vessel. The Maine vessels carry larger crews than those from Massachusetts, and use hand lines. The trawlers use fresh bait, herring, mackerel, or squid; the hand-liners use salted clams for the first of the season, but afterward usually obtain squid. The fish when brought aboard the vessel are dressed and salted in the hold. Upon arrival home they are taken out, washed, and dried on flakes, or platforms of wickerwork, on the shore. The process of dressing them is reduced to system, and is performed with great rapidity. The throater, usually a boy, cuts the throat and rips them open; the header removes the entrails and the head; the splitter splits the fish, removing a portion of the backbone; while the Salter piles them in tiers and sprinkles them with salt. There are two principal methods of employing the crew. Under one system, a portion of them, called sharesmen, take the risk of the voyage and hire the rest of the men.
These shares number from one to five, three or four being the usual number. There may be whole shares or parts of shares, the latter occurring when a portion of the compensation is at the risk of the voyage and the rest is received in wages. The hired men receive from $150 to $250 for one fare, and from $200 to $300 for two fares. The cook is usually paid from $50 to $G0 a month. In settling the voyage, as it is termed, the skipper takes a small proportion of the gross stock, generally 3 per cent. The "great general supplies," consisting of salt, bait, dories, fishing tackle, etc, are then deducted; the owners of the vessel next draw one fourth; one eighth of what remains is paid for curing the fish; the provisions are then paid for; and finally the wages of the hired men are deducted. Whatever is still left is divided among the sharesmen, the skipper drawing a share in addition to his percentage. With fair success, the sharesmen will draw about 45 per cent, of the gross proceeds, though the proportion varies of course accord-ding to circumstances, and they sometimes fail to pay their expenses.
This system is in use on Cape Cod, and in Plymouth, Marblehead, and Beverly. By the other method the owners equip the vessel, and buy the fish green upon her arrival, at the market price for the time being. The crew receive half the proceeds, paying only half of the bait bill and of the cook's wages, having left about 45 per cent. net, which in vessels that use trawls is generally divided equally, but in the case of those that use hand lines is commonly shared among the crew according to their respective catch, or on the " own hook lay." This system is in vogue in Gloucester. The Maine fishermen use the same method, but do not sell their fish until cured. The Nova Scotia vessels mostly use trawls. The sharesmen, six or eight in number, hire the boys and ordinary fishermen, and divide the proceeds according to the system last described. The French fishermen leave home with their salt, provisions, etc, in the latter part of winter or early spring, and come directly to St. Pierre, where they equip for fishing, generally making two or three trips to the banks from that port. Their fishing season extends from April to October. Their vessels range in size from barks of 300 tons to shallops of 20 tons.
They all use trawls equipped with G,000 or 8,000 hooks, which are set at night and hauled in the forenoon, and boats of sufficient size to weather any ordinary gale, each manned with seven men. They procure their bait at St. Pierre, using salted herring for the first fare and capelin for the other two. A portion of the fish is cured at St. Pierre, but the greater part is taken green to France, and there cured. Some vessels from Cape Cod are employed in fishing on the shoals that lie along the coast from Nantucket N. to the extremity of the cape. They make short trips, returning every two or three weeks to land their fish and procure fresh bait. Many boats are also employed from the shore. Large quantities of cod are brought in fresh to the markets of New York, Boston, and other cities, by the numerous small vessels engaged in market fishing. Cod fishing from Cape Breton and Newfoundland is pursued almost exclusively in boats from the shore. The smallest of the fish, instead of being dried, are sometimes preserved in pickle and sold by the barrel. The dried fish are sold by the quintal of 112 lbs.
Codfish are sometimes cured by being kept in a pile for two or three months after salting, in a dark room, covered with salt grass or the like, after which they are opened, and again piled in a compact mass for about the same length of time. They are then known as dun-fish, from their color, and are highly esteemed. Of the fish caught on the banks with hand lines previous to the first of July, it takes about 50 to make a quintal of dried fish; after that date 30 will yield a quintal. Fish caught with trawls average 3G to the quintal throughout the year. The livers are preserved, and the oil obtained from them is valuable as a medicine in pulmonary complaints. The tongues and sounds are also frequently preserved in pickle. From the sounds, prepared and dried, isinglass is obtained. - According to the United States census of 1870, the product of the American fishery for that year was 559,982 quintals of cod, of which 28,484 quintals belonged to Connecticut, 79,373 to Maine, 451,-125 to Massachusetts, and 1,000 to Washington territory.
In that year 94,750 quintals were caught in Alaskan waters, and brought mostly into San Francisco. For the year ending June 30, 1871, there were entered in the various customs districts 658,756 quintals of cured cod (product of domestic fishery), valued at $3,747,-535; oil, other than whale (chiefly cod-liver), 729,558 gallons, valued at $420,146. For the year ending June 30, 1872, there were entered 727,487 quintals, valued at $3,194,286, and 1,437,343 gallons of oil, valued at $508,402. These figures do not include large quantities of cod brought in by coasters, fishing smacks, etc, not making entry at the custom houses, of which there are no trustworthy statistics. The number of men in the United States employed in the cod fishery is from 12,000 to 15,000. The government, regarding the cod fishery as a nursery of seamen for the navy, by the acts of 1813 and 1819, offered a certain sum per ton as bounty to vessels engaged in the business. The payment of bounties was discontinued by the act of July 28, 1866, to which time about $16,000,000 had been expended; but the duties on imported salt used in curing fish are remitted.
The product of the British American fishery for 1869 was as follows: province of Quebec, 136,774 quintals of cod, valued at $410,322; 103,018 gallons of oil, worth $51,-509; and 287 barrels of tongues and sounds, value $2,009; New Brunswick, 17,924 quintals of cured cod; Nova Scotia, 355,638 quintals; Prince Edward island, value of cod, etc, obtained, $39,893; Newfoundland, exports of cod, 1,204,086 quintals, valued at $5,514,040; 1,224,468 gallons of cod-liver oil, value $978,-425; 964 barrels of cod roes, worth $3,615. The number of men in Canada and Newfoundland engaged in cod fishing is from 40,000 to 50,000. The product of the French fishery from 1863 to 1868 was as follows:
RECEIPTS AT THE FRENCH PORTS, IN QUINTALS.
Other products (tongues, sounds, etc.)...
Of the cod obtained in 1868, all but about 3,000 quintals was from the Newfoundland and Iceland fisheries known as la grande peche. The value of the green and dry fish in 1868 was $3,381,917; of the oil, $504,647. A quintal of oil is equivalent to about 12 gallons. The French government has spent large sums by way of bounty for the encouragement of cod fishing, a premium being paid as well upon the export of the fish as upon the vessels engaged in the business. The following table exhibits the number of vessels and men engaged in the fishery, the exports of cod, and the bounty paid, from 1863 to 1868:
FROM PLACES OP FISHERY.
The aggregate tonnage in 18G8 was about 80,000. The principal fishing ports are Dunkirk, Bordeaux, Cette, La Rochelle, Marseilles, Granville, St. Servan, St. Malo, Boulogne, Paimpol, and Gravelines. - The cod fishery of the British islands is important, and is pursued chiefly in the vicinity of the Shetlands and Orkneys, off the shores of Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, and Lincoln, and around the Dogger bank. The catch of the English coast is mostly taken fresh to the London market. The return's are imperfect, but, so far as reported to the officers of the fishery board, the product of cured cod, ling, and hake in 1870 for Scotland amounted to the sum of 145,289 quintals of dried and 9,945 barrels of pickled fish. In 1870, 277 vessels were employed in cod fishing in Belgium, and obtained 30,604 quintals; the product for 1868 was 53,782 quintals. The most imporant European fisheries are those of Iceland and Norway. In Iceland the most productive cod fishing commences in February or March, and continues till May or June. In that island and Faroe from 75 to 100 deck boats and from 4,000 to 5,000 open boats, manned by 10,000 to 15,000 men, are employed.
The annual product is about 100,000 quintals, of which 20,000 go to Denmark, 50,000 to Spain, Italy, etc, and the remainder is consumed by the islanders. In 1862, an abundant year, 59,123 quintals of "clipfish" (dried salted cod), and 6,525 of "stockfish" (dried unsalted cod), 6,557 barrels of liver oil, and 1,489 of roes were exported from Iceland; in 1865 the exports were only 22,036 quintals of clipfish and 313 of stockfish; in 1869, 46,819 quintals of clipfish, 3,954 of stockfish, 977 barrels of roes, and 7,744 of liver oil. The Norwegian cod fishery is carried on along the whole W. and N. shore of the country, particularly near the Loffoden islands, and commences in December; the best months are January and February. In 1866, 5,723 boats and 25,756 men were employed. The exports for 1865 were 490,344 quintals of clipfish, 332,398 of stockfish, 33,771 barrels of cod, 37,941 of roes, and 1,896,346 gallons of liver oil. The roes are principally used as bait for sardines. Besides the exports enumerated, it is estimated that from 200,000 to 300,-000 quintals are annually bartered to the Russian traders of the White sea. In 1871, 18,-500,000 cod were caught in the Loffoden fishery, yielding 428,214 quintals of fish, 25,000 barrels of roes, and 31,000 of oil.
The other principal fishery that of Finmark, produced 12,500,000 cod. The exports were valued at about $6,000,000. (See Fisheries.)