All “skrei” is cod, but not all cod is “skrei”

“Skrei” – the arctic Cod – in brief

All skrei is cod, but not all cod is skrei. So, what exactly is skrei? Skrei is cod that grows up in the Barents Sea. When it is an adult, it comes to the Norwegian coast to spawn. It differs in appearance from cod, which lives stationary along the coast, but you have to be a connoisseur to see this.

The skrei grows up in the Barents Sea and comes to the Norwegian coast at sexual maturity to spawn or reproduce.

The spawning season is January – April. The skrei swims more than 1000 kilometres to reproduce off the Norwegian coast. The word skrei comes from the Old Norse word “skrida” – i.e. a fish that wanders or progresses. Fishing extends along large parts of the Norwegian coast, but the majority of the skrei is fished off Lofoten and Vesterålen.

Torsk eller skrei som svømmer
The skrei – the Arctic cod – comes in huge numbers from the Barents sea to the Norwegian coast. Photo Kjell Ove Storvik/Museum Nord
SKREI is considered a delicacy

Since the skrei swims long distances, it gains extra muscle and a delicate white fish flesh. In Northern Norway it is most traditional to serve skrei, or “fresh fish” as it is most commonly called, together with liver and roe. It is customary to serve potatoes and flatbread. Over time, many have probably got their own ways of preparing skrei, in addition to the traditional way.

The tongues are also used. They are fried and served as delicacies and have been everyday food for many for years. More new is probably that the chin of the skrei also are used – delicious food that is also described as a delicacy by many.

Did this make you hungry? You will find recipes and inspiration in many places, including NRK and the Norwegian Seafood Council.

Not all cod is skrei, but all skrei is cod. The “regular” cod is also good food – important to know if you want to cook outside the skrei season.

skrei has been fished since time immemorial

The Vikings were probably the first to start commercial trade in stockfish. Here you can read more about exactly this. The majority of skrei are fished in the waters around Lofoten and Vesterålen. Skrei has put food on the table for thousands upon thousands of people, over hundreds, even thousands of years. Here you can read more about the importance of the Lofoten fishery – it is enormous, both culturally, settlement-wise and economically.

Stockfish is also skrei

The skrei that is not eaten or salted is hung to death and dried. It is this that becomes the stockfish that is exported to a number of countries and which for centuries has been extremely important for the Norwegian economy. Other types of fish are also dried, such as haddock, but it is the skrei that plays the main role in the “world of stockfish”.

Person som ser på fisk i en stor fisketank.
Not all cod is skrei but all skrei is cod. In this photo there are multiple species of fish. Photo: Kjell Ove Storvik/Museum Nord
More about skrei, cod and cultural history

You can read more about skrei, among other things, at Store Norske Leksikon. You can see the fish “live” in the Lofoten Aquarium, see some of the art that has been created by the inspiration and experiences of the Lofoten fishery at Gallery Espolin, or walk in history at the Lofoten Museum and the Norwegian Fishing Village Museum.

we are building SKREI

The history of the Lofoten fishery and the significance of the skrei is great, bigger than many think. We are therefore building SKREI – a national museum for skreien. SKREI will open in 2026.

Illustration from the coming building “Otolitten”. It will house a large exhibition, café and archives for Museum Nord. Illustration: LPO arktitekter.