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Fish and Shellfish Reproductive Development Research

Research to understand the reproductive biology of many commercially-important fishes and shellfishes.

salmon ovarian follicles

Reproduction is key to the perpetuation of life. It influences species’ survival and abundance in the wild and production levels in agriculture. Reproduction involves several physiological processes, including the development of male or female organs and growth, maturation, and eggs or sperm release. 

In fishes, reproductive development is regulated internally by hormones produced by the brain, pituitary gland, and gonads (the so-called B-P-G axis). In shellfishes, the systems are more primitive, but hormonal signaling is also involved. Environmental factors, such as photoperiod and temperature, can influence the seasonal timing of reproduction and overall reproductive output.

The reproductive biology of many commercially-important fishes and shellfishes, including new target species for aquaculture, is poorly understood yet critical to managing wild stocks and the production of larvae for aquaculture. In aquaculture, there is also interest in controlling reproductive development (e.g., timing) or blocking it altogether to induce sterility and improve biosecurity. 


Our research in this area aims to:

  • Improve our understanding of the reproductive biology of commercially important fish for marine aquaculture and fisheries stock assessments.
  • Develop methods to control sex, age-at-maturity (puberty), and timing of spawning for fish in aquaculture.
  • Develop reliable methods for sterilization of marine fish and shellfish species in aquaculture.
  • Evaluate the potential impacts of environmental factors, such as water temperature, food availability, and chemical contamination on fish reproduction.


Sablefish being implanted with a cholesterol-cellulose
pellet for induction of sexual maturation. Photo: NOAA


  • Development of methods for sex control and sterilization of sablefish for aquaculture.
  • Development of novel sterilization methods for shellfishes.
  • Reducing precocious male maturation in hatchery salmon.
  • Physiological indicators of reproductive condition to inform stock assessments for Pacific hake.

An early-maturing (precocious) male salmon is dissected from an experiment.
Photo: NOAA Fisheries


Cultured Pacific oysters being prepared for sampling. Photo: NOAA Fisheries


  • NWFSC Marine Fish and Shellfish Biology Program
  • NWFSC Fisheries Resource Analysis and Monitoring Division
  • University of Maryland Baltimore County
  • School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington
  • Genome Sciences, University of Washington
  • Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology
  • Washington Sea Grant
  • INRA France
  • Taylor Shellfish Farms
  • Jamestown S’Klallam tribe
  • Bonneville Power Administration
  • Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife 
  • Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • Idaho Department of Fish and Game


Dr. Adam Luckenbach
Program Manager

Last updated by Northwest Fisheries Science Center on February 22, 2023