Finfish and Shellfish Aquaculture Research in the Pacific Northwest
We develop and optimize technologies for the artificial production of marine fish and shellfish.
The sustainable aquaculture of fish and shellfish promotes blue-green jobs, decreases pressure on the wild fishery, and produces a healthy food product. Also, we can use artificial propagation for wild shellfish restoration. We develop and optimize technologies for the artificial production of marine fish and shellfish, including developing genetically defined broodstocks, methods to control reproduction, optimizing larval rearing, and improving diets and strategies for promoting growth.
Diets and Enhanced Growth
Juvenile sablefish have a very high growth rate making them a great candidate for commercial production. However, no one has developed grow-out diets for this species. Preliminary investigations suggest that they do not grow optimally on diets designed for other fish species and that growth may be different as they transition from juveniles to adults. We are developing diets specifically for sablefish to maximize this growth potential. Sablefish growth is dimorphic, with females growing faster than males. We created stocks of XX male sablefish (neomales) that we use to produce all-female stocks for enhanced grow-out. We are currently evaluating all-female sablefish stocks for their use in commercial net-pen production at the Manchester Research Station.
Marine Larval Rearing
In commercial aquaculture operations, the larval stage of marine fish requires a significant live feed investment. Sablefish require an initial rotifer phase followed by feeding with Artemia nauplii before transitioning to artificial feeds. Because live feed production is expensive, we investigate ways to hasten and contract this stage and make it more efficient. Our work includes rearing sablefish larvae at higher water temperatures, omitting the Artemia phase, and developing new ways to rear larvae such as the use of clay in place of green water. In all cases, we look at the impact that this may have on growth and development.
Olympia Oyster and Pinto Abalone Restoration
Both pinto abalone and Olympia oysters are native shellfish in Puget Sound with greatly decreased populations. Production is underway at our Manchester shellfish hatchery by the Puget Sound Restoration Fund to produce both species for out-planting and restoration. A primary goal of the recovery efforts is to have minimal negative impacts on wild stocks. We are characterizing the genetics of out-planted pinto abalone and Olympia oysters with wild stocks. We are determining if there could be potential impacts on the genetics of recovering populations.
Sablefish Broodstocks and Selection
Commercial aquaculture operations for sablefish currently use fish obtained from the wild as a gamete source for fingerling production. Sourcing broodfish from the wild results in 1) a small segment of the natural genetic variation present and 2) a continually changing genetic background from year to year. Domesticated broodstocks have a known genetic history, perform better in captivity, and we can use them to select traits of interest such as fast growth. We have generated F1 sablefish broodstock families (including XX neomales) from single pair crosses we rear to sexual maturity. We continually assess the genetics, growth, and reproductive performance of these fish.
NOAA established the National Shellfish Initiative in partnership with shellfish farmers and shellfish restoration organizations to increase bivalve shellfish populations in our nation's coastal waters—including oysters, clams, and mussels through both sustainable commercial production and restoration activities. In the Pacific Northwest, we coordinate with the Washington State Shellfish Initiative. This is an agreement among federal and state governments, tribes, and the shellfish industry to restore and expand Washington's shellfish resources to promote clean-water industries and create family-wage jobs. As part of these initiatives, we produce the seed of various shellfish species for restoration by the Puget Sound Restoration Fund within NOAA's Kenneth K. Chew Center for Shellfish Research and Restoration at the Manchester Research Station. We also provide experimental platforms to study the effects of changing environmental conditions such as ocean acidification, rising temperatures, and decreasing oxygen levels on shellfish physiology, performance, and genetics.
Rick Goetz, Aquaculture and Marine Fish and Shellfish Research Program Manager