Largest black cod has many tales to tell

Australia's population of black cod is found from southern Queensland to eastern Victoria as well as on offshore reefs and islands

Australia’s population of black cod is found from southern Queensland to eastern Victoria as well as on offshore reefs and islands

The largest black cod recorded on Australia’s east coast in recent years has been sighted in the Solitary Islands Marine Reserve, during fish counts for Parks Australia.

Black cod are a slow-growing, long-lived species reaching 120cm at around 50 years. At 140cm, this guy is 20cm larger than commonly cited literature – and therefore believed to be well over half a century old! He was swimming around before ATMs, mobile phones and the internet. He may even have been around in the 1960s, or 1950s when Robert Menzies was Prime Minister! However, back then he would have been a she as, like many species of rock cod, the black cod is a protogynous hermaphrodite, which means it changes sex from female to male at around 30 years of age.

Being slow moving and inquisitive, the once widespread population has declined since the early 20th Century, most notably in the late 1950s-1970s with the rise in popularity of recreational spear fishing. Happily, this fine species is now protected under Australian Government and NSW legislation, as well as living within the Marine National Park zone of the reserve where no fishing is allowed.

Since spotting this guy our researchers have reported he may have some competition in the size stakes – with a couple of other individuals in adjacent state marine areas measuring between 135 and 140cm. This is encouraging news for this protected species along the NSW coast.

Paul, Commonwealth Marine Reserves

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