Cod Cures All

The recent post over at Dynamics of Cats, Pensive on Penzim, discusses the hype about a new cod-based cure for avian flu.

So, what is the big deal? Well, probably nothing, there are no clinical trials or safety studies yet, but since the stakes are high, it is worth contemplating.

I should point out another issue about Atlantic cod, Gadus morhua, they’re tasty overfished in the Atlantic. Extremely overfished. From the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch.

Avoid Atlantic cod; it has been fished heavily for the past 50 years, resulting in massive population declines. Scientists agree that we are now fishing the last 10% of this population…Despite strict management in the U.S. and Canada, cod populations remain overfished. Canadian populations are so low that some are listed as endangered or threatened. Most stocks in the Northeast Atlantic, except for the Icelandic and Northeast Arctic cod stocks, are also in extremely poor condition.

So avoid all cod? No…

Other gear types, such as hook-and-line and bottom longline, do not damage the seafloor. Icelandic and Northeast Arctic (Barents Sea) cod caught with hook and line, Danish seine, gillnet and bottom longline gear are Good Alternatives to other Atlantic cod. Cod from these fisheries are at relatively better population levels and are caught with gear that does not damage the seafloor.

So in summary Atlantic Cod bad, unless Icelandic caught with hook and line (which you are unlikely to know or find out so just avoid).
Pacific Cod, Gadus macrocephalus, good…good from trawls, best from longline, trap or hook-and-line.
Thank God I can still have my fish and chips.

So back to Penzim (Dynamics of Cats)….

Ok – so there’s step from cold pressed cod liver oil, to enzyme from cod guts, but it is all same-same, eh?
Of course modern trawlers gut and discard the innards at sea, which pleases the sea gulls tremendously, I guess they’ll start keeping the guts, until a synthesis is found.

Currently the only source of Penzim is cod guts. Not bad because guts are discarded. Using the whole fish good. But how much Penzim can be obtained from a single gut? Is the current amount guts sufficient for a Penzim demand? Or will this increase cod demand? Will increased profitability for cod from Penzim lead to overdepletion?

Of course the other problem…The cod fishing industry get a new arguement, “We need to overfish cod because we are saving lives! And don’t forget about the children!”

Dr. M (1801 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Executive Director of the Lousiana University Marine Consortium. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Additionally, Craig is obsessed with the size of things. Sometimes this translated into actually scientific research. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (, a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.

2 Replies to “Cod Cures All”

  1. Wegman’s carries line caught Icelandic cod, frozen same day and shipped out on Icelandair. It is labeled as such.
    Pacific cod is not Real Cod. Avoid cod Cod!

    Current penzim extraction probably uses less than 1% of the Icelandic catch.
    The liver is already valuable and kept, so if they will pay for the rest of the gut, the trawlers will keep it.

    However, from the company prospectus, they have already started genengineering an grain, barley IIRC, and plan on pharmacropping the stuff. Might even be able to grow it in Iceland, where there is already a market, definitely could greenhouse it.

  2. Thanks for the clarification on Penzim extraction. Also thank you for reminding me that Pacific cod is not the same species as the Atlantic cod (I noted this above). Pacific cod is Gadus macrocephalus but note it is still a cod (Order: Gadiformes , Family: Gadidae).

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