April’s Fish of the Month is Pacific cod.

"There’s always more fish in the sea." While the expression consoles love lost, it also symbolizes a cultural view that oceans are bountiful, endless resources. For centuries, cod was iconic for its aquatic abundance. The Atlantic cod industry boosted the economic vitality of cities throughout Europe and our northeast coast. A deep-water fish enjoyed for its low-fat, mild flavor and flaky texture, it is widely found in Northern European fare, especially the British staple, fish & chips.

Yet, the history of Atlantic cod teaches eaters and industry alike that we must diversify our seafood palates, while properly managing our fisheries. In the second half of the 20th century, fishing areas once pursued by small, artisanal boats became large commercial fishing hangouts. Despite having a quick maturity rate and being highly fecund, the resilient Atlantic cod could not endure massive catch levels and high-tech gear. By 1994, a federal fishing moratorium was declared for areas of Georges Bay, once a hotbed for cod along the American coastline. 

MSCToday, many Atlantic cod stocks remain overfished and can be found on in the ‘avoid’ column of Shedd’s sustainable seafood guide.  But as any great chef will tell you, there are always substitutes! April’s Fish of the Month takes us west to the Pacific Ocean.  U.S. Pacific cod is caught from well-managed fisheries and still has delicious texture & flavor.  The fishery managers ensure all fishermen use preventative measures such as seasonal fishing, catch quotas and gear restrictions. For these reasons, Pacific cod is certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council – the world’s leading certification and ecolabelling program for sustainable seafood. Look for their blue logo (pictured to the left) when purchasing seafood products.

The way a fish is caught is just as important to its sustainability. Since cod swims near the ocean floor, it is often caught with bottom trawls, a heavy net dragged along seafloor that greatly damages critical habitats. An ocean-friendly choice is Pacific Cod caught with bottom longlines, traps or hook-and-line.

Love cod, but not overfishing? Try making our Poached Pacific Cod with Fava Beans to support healthy ecosystems. 

Poached Pacific Cod with Fava Beans
Serves 4


- 4 MSC-Certified U.S. Pacific cod fillets
- Salt and fresh ground pepper
- Fresh thyme and rosemary, finely chopped
- ¼ cup of butter
- 2 shallots, diced
- 1 ½ cups of dry white wine
- 2 cups of shelled fava beans, cooked and pureed
- 1 Lemon, sliced
- Toasted breadcrumbs, optional


1. Rub fillets with salt, pepper, thyme and rosemary

2. In sauté pan, melt butter over medium-high heat

3. Add shallots and sauté for 2-3 minutes

4. Slowly whisk in wine, bring to simmer and reduce for 10 minutes

5. Add fillets and poach for 4-5 minutes per inch of thickness, carefully turning fillet when half cooked

6. Add salt and pepper to warm fava beans, to taste and divide evenly on four plates

7. Top fava beans with cod fillets, extra wine sauce and garnish with a lemon slice and bread crumbs

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Posted by Brooke Havlik, conservation