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Selective breeding and genetic improvement of Atlantic cod



Aquaculture is one of the fastest growing sectors of the agricultural economy, with marine finfish species such as Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) becoming increasingly important in the growth of the global industry. Despite this growth, aquaculture often relies on wild populations for broodstock, which is the situation with Atlantic cod farmed in Canada. The Canadian aquaculture industry recognizes that broodstock selection is essential in order to produce cod that perform well in captivity. In response, the present proposal develops a program in partnership with the aquaculture industry and several research institutes to identify and select elite broodstock through the application of selective breeding.

Until now, researchers in Atlantic Canada have used communal spawning to establish cod production runs. This approach has been used for haddock as well, and recent analyses of fish demonstrate a seriously low genetic diversity of fish produced (primarily due to the dominance of individual males in group spawning situations). We will implement established paired mating breeding protocols used in Norway to set-up cod families in Canada. Families will be reared separately until the 10-20 g phase, pit tagged, and stocked in sea cages. They will be grown to market size, and based on family performance, elite broodstock will be selected for future use by industry.

This study has seven objectives:

  • Development of broodstock reproduction and spawning protocols.
  • Establish families and evaluation of early rearing performance.
  • Examine effect of egg batch quality on family performance.
  • Evaluation of sea cage performance and trait analysis.
  • Conduct preliminary heritability estimates.
  • Selection of elite broodstock for Cooke Aquaculture.
  • Organization of an international workshop held at St. Andrews Biological Station (SABS) to provide advice in breeding program design by Atlantic Canada and international experts.

Program Name

Aquaculture Collaborative Research and Development Program (ACRDP)


2005 - 2008


Atlantic: Gulf of Maine, Scotian Shelf

Principal Investigator(s)

Edward Trippel

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