Parapercis colias, commonly known as Blue Cod or Rāwaru in Māori, is a highly prized eating fish endemic to the coastal waters of New Zealand. With a delicate salty-sweet flavour and unique light texture, Blue Cod is a wild-caught delicacy — particularly amongst South Islanders, where the species is most prevalent. New Zealand Blue Cod is also a favourite of local and international chefs, who serve the fish as a main-course seafood in the $25 to $40 NZD price range.
New Zealand Blue Cod
Named for their colour, which ranges from blue-green to blue-grey depending on age and sex, the Blue Cod is not technically a cod, but rather a type of Sand Perch. Like other varieties of Perch, this is a bottom dwelling species, occupying bedrock and sandy seabed areas at depths of up to 150 meters.
As ‘opportunistic carnivores,’ Blue Cod feed by stalking nearly anything that comes their way before eating it whole. This includes Pilchards, Sprats, Mullet, Rock Cod, Red Pigfish, Mussels, Crabs and other Blue Cod. Described by NZ diving specialists Ocean Hunter as ‘Inquisitive and extremely territorial’ by nature, it’s not unheard of for a Blue Cod to approach and bite at the fingers of a nearby diver.
In terms of physical attributes, adult males reach about 30 to 40 centimetres in length and can weigh up to three kilograms, while the slightly smaller female clocks in between 25 to 30 centimeters and one to two kilograms respectively. Interestingly, Blue Cod are ‘protogynous hermaphrodites,’ meaning they have the ability to change sex.
Blue Cod Life-Cycle
A female blue cod will take part in multiple spawning events throughout the cooler months of winter and spring — but this can also extend through into summer. Studies indicate that spawning occurs both inshore and mid-shelf waters; usually in the afternoon or early evening. After about five days, fertilised eggs hatch into larvae which, after an additional five days, develop into a fish. The time (and size) it takes for a juvenile to reach sexual maturity depends heavily on their location and natural environment:
Northland: 10–19 cm / 2 years
Marlborough Sounds: 21–26 cm / 3–6 years
Southland: 26–28 cm / 4–5 years
Fishing for Blue Cod
Size Limit (length)
National - 33cm
Marlborough Sounds Area - 30-35cm
South-East FMA, Challenger East - 30cm
Auckland & Kermadec - 30cm
Favoured hobbyist fishing locations include Southland; Kaikoura; Banks Peninsula; Marlborough Sounds and The Catlins, where the fish is in range of even the most modest of boats. Key commercial fisheries are based off Southland and here in the Chatham Islands, where careful resource management and pristine waters help the species to flourish.
Bait-wise, fresh fish and squid are a tried and tested means of landing a Blue Cod. But for those with access to it, Barracoota has been noted as one of the choicest baits to lure the species.
Eating Blue Cod
Glossy, moist and evenly textured, the white flesh of the Chatham Blue is firm yet fine, breaking off into clean, well defined flakes. In the colder months when the fish fatten up, the flesh takes on a buttery richness. In short, this is an eating fish with incredible flavour and cooking versatility — which is why the species is sought after by home cooks and top international chefs alike.
The following recipes are a selection of those sent to us from around the country; they are indicative of the range of ways blue cod is being prepared and eaten in New Zealand.
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