Cod (Gadus morhua)
Cod is “the fish” in Iceland. It is by far the most important marine resource in Icelandic waters. The cod is also a large, fecund, greedy and rather fast growing fish and therefore has great impact on other marine species in Icelandic waters. Common size is in the range of 45 to 85 cm long in most fishing gear. This corresponds to roughly 4 to 7 year old and 1 to 4 kg fish. Gillnets are the exceptions, as they are used to selectively target much larger fish, or mostly in the size range of 75 to 105 cm. Annual variation in growth can mostly be explained by the stock size of its main prey, the capelin.
Salting fish is probably the oldest and most common method of processing cod in Iceland and is deeply rooted in Icelandic culture.
A common saying in Iceland goes “Lífið er saltfiskur” or “Life is salted fish.” Bacalao is the Spanish term for dried, salted cod. The dried fish is white, delicate, and tender once it’s re-hydrated. Salted fish products have in recent years constituted 15-20% of the value of seafood exports from Iceland. The salting of fish has a long tradition, going back centuries, and saltfish is still a favourite festive dish in countries ranging from Scandinavia to South America. Cod is by far the most important species for saltfish processing. About half of the cod catch in Iceland has traditionally been salted and bacalao is especially favoured in many southern European countries.
Further information on salted fish products in Iceland can be found here.