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April 02, 2012

April Fish of the Month: Pacific Cod

Your seafood choices can have a big impact on the health of our oceans and lakes – so make sure they’re positive ones! Every month, Shedd’s Right Bite team highlights a sustainable seafood option that’s both good for you and our planet. The Fish of the Month for April is Pacific cod.

Pacific cod is harvested from healthy and abundant populations in the North Pacific Ocean, ranging from the Gulf of Alaska to Northern California. These commercial fisheries limit fishing licenses, set fishing gear restrictions and a total allowable catch to minimize conservation concerns, like overfishing.

Overfishing happens when humans take too many fish out of the ocean, without giving them a chance to repopulate. Atlantic cod, Pacific cod’s eastern cousin, has an unclear future for fishing communities, marine scientists and seafood lovers alike due to years of overfishing and persistent challenges to population recovery. That is why Pacific cod is a simple substitute that is almost identical in flavor to Atlantic cod, with a thicker, more delicate texture.

When Pacific cod is caught with bottom longline, jig or trap, it receives the highest rating on Shedd’s sustainable seafood wallet guide and is certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), an ecolabel that ensures your fish was sustainably caught in the wild. These fishing gear methods cause little damage to local habitats and incidental catch of other marine life, called bycatch.

Not only do humans consume cod from the Pacific, but so do sharks, seabirds, and marine mammals. Pacific cod is also a major source of food for already vulnerable populations of Steller sea lions. These marine food chains demonstrate how critical it is to support well-managed fisheries, like Pacific cod’s, that do not contribute to overfishing. Share this story of sustainable fisheries at the dinner table with Shedd’s recipe for pan-fried cod with creamy asparagus ragout.


Pan-fried cod with creamy asparagus ragout
Serves 4

4 bacon slices, cut into ¼-inch-wide strips
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch asparagus, cut into ½-inch pieces
¼ cup peas
1 ¾ cups low-sodium chicken broth
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
4 (5 oz.) MSC-certified Pacific cod filets
Chopped mint, for garnish

1. Cook bacon in a heavy skillet over medium heat until slightly crisp (about 6 to 8 minutes).
2. Remove bacon and lay on paper towel to cool.
3. Add 1 tablespoon of oil to pan over medium-high heat. Add asparagus and cook until lightly browned (about 5 minutes).
4. Add peas, broth, cream, and garlic to asparagus and cook over low heat for about 20 minutes, or until cream has slightly thickened.
5. In a separate pan, add remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil to pan over medium-high heat.
6. Season filets with salt and pepper and pan-fry cook for approximately 4 minutes on each side, or until fish flakes with fork.
7. Crumble bacon and stir into asparagus ragout. Season ragout with salt and pepper, garnish with mint and serve warm with fish.

Posted by Brook Havlik, conservation

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