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Canadian Aquaculture R&D Review 2009

Finfish - Marine

Halibut study pilots off-season grow-out in PEI lobster holding facility

An eight-month initiative is looking to fast-track a new halibut production industry on PEI. Through a joint effort between DFO-AIMAP, PEI’s Department of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Rural Development (PEIDFARD) and several private firms, Halibut PEI aims to determine the feasibility of using off-season lobster-holding facilities for grow-out of Atlantic Halibut fingerlings.

Some of the halibut were transferred into one of the large existing lobster-holding tanks on the island, while other smaller fish were put into fibreglass tanks (bottom) specially installed for the purpose.

Currently, several PEI lobster holding facilities with access to salt water wells stand unused for up to nine months of the year. Proponents of the initiative believe that land-based grow-out of the valuable fish could comprise a new and profitable way to keep existing infrastructure in full use and staff employed throughout the year. Stable water conditions and minimal renovation expense mean that a new industry could be underway without delay, once it has been demonstrated that the facilities can produce high-quality, market-sized fish in one 8-month growing season.

The study is currently underway at MorningStar Fisheries, a lobster holding facility in Victoria, PEI owned by Ocean Choice International Ltd. Fingerlings were provided by Scotian Halibut from their Clark’s Harbour Hatchery in Nova Scotia. The research team includes Project Manager Jim Dunphy of J. Dunphy Inc., fisheries and aquaculture consultant Bob Johnston, and Dr. Gerald Johnson of the UPEI Atlantic Veterinary College in Charlottetown. Jim Dunphy is confident that a new industry is on the horizon: “We are committed to sharing the results of our project with other investors who may be interested in establishing halibut grow-out operations in their facilities. This could create a new aquaculture industry in PEI as well as creating full time jobs in plants where employment has been seasonal up to this time.”

The research grant of $160,000 from DFO’s Aquaculture Innovation and Market Access Program (AIMAP) was part of DFO’s overall $23.5 million commitment to industry R&D over the next five years. The DFO funding was augmented by $40,600 from the PEI Department of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Rural Development and a total of $127, 000 from the participating firms that also included Waterline Ltd. and Viodiaq Inc.

Duration: July ‘08 – Apr ‘09.

Funded by: DFO-AIMAP. Co-funded by: Halibut PEI, Scotian Halibut, Ocean Choice International, Waterline Ltd, Viodiaq Inc., UPEI-AVC, J Dunphy Inc., Robert Johnston Consulting, PEI DFARD

Project team: Jim Dunphy (J Dunphy Inc.), Bob Johnston (Robert Johnston Consulting), Gerald Johnson (UPEI-AVC), Brian Blanchard (Scotian Halibut), Melissa Rommens (Scotian Halibut), Wayne Van Toever (Waterline Ltd.), David Speare (UPEI-AVC), Ocean Choice International

For information contact: Jim Dunphy (902) 892-0953

Research begins on culturing juvenile copper rockfish in BC

Juvenile rockfish in tanks at the Centre for Aquaculture and Environmental Research for growth performance study. / Implanting rockfish with visible implant tags (Northwest Technologies) to identify and monitor individual growth performance during study. (Photo: S.Balfry)

Identifying, in a controlled and scientific manner, the impact of selected factors such as temperature, size, and sex, on the growth performance of cultured copper rockfish (Sebastes caurinus) is underway at the DFO - University of British Columbia’s Centre for Aquaculture and Environmental Research. This initial research is providing the information on the biology of cultured copper rockfish so that it can be readily transferred to industry wanting to develop this new species for aquaculture in British Columbia.

In addition to gaining an understanding of these factors, information on health and welfare parameters on this new species will be provided to assist in the development of health management plans to facilitate in the regulation of this new aquaculture industry.

Duration: Jan ‘08 – Oct ’09.

Funded by: DFO-ACRDP. Co-funded by: Ko-Un Fish Company

Project team: Shannon Balfry (UBC), Steve Macdonald (DFO), Jeff Marliave (Vancouver Aquarium), Scott McKinley (UBC), Phil Konken (Ko-Un Fish Company).

For information contact: Shannon Balfry (

Juvenile Atlantic cod diets improved by using herring fishery by-product

Canadian researchers have already developed initial feed formulations for juvenile and broodstock marine fish, but further research is still needed to optimize growth and health of cultured juvenile marine fish in general, and of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) in particular. Furthermore, recent work suggested that including tissue from gonads of male herring in feed was of interest for two reasons: it can increase growth and performance of the immune system and it solves the problem of disposing of this fishery by-product in an environmentally sound manner.

Juvenile cod in respirometer (Photo: D. Chabot)

The research team at the DFO Institut Maurice-Lamontagne are further improving existing feed formulations by testing the impact of three levels of male herring gonad contents and three levels arachidonic acid (ARA) supplementations on growth rate of juvenile cod. Fish are grown on a selection of these diets and respiratory capacity is measured to relate differences in growth to metabolic costs and assimilation.

Furthermore, tolerance to hypoxia is being measured for cod fed the same diets. In addition to checking for the impact of diet on hypoxia tolerance, this work provides precious information to predict how long cod can survive when oxygen is not supplied to a tank, according to the number and size of fish and the tank volume.

Duration: Jan ’07 – May ’09.

Funded by: DFO-ACRDP. Co-funded by: Cooke Aquaculture

Project team: Denis Chabot (DFO), Sébastien Plante (DFO).

For information contact:

Cod broodstock research in Newfoundland takes critical step toward formulated feeds

Knowledge of broodstock nutrition for Altantic cod is greatly limited due to factors such as difficulty accessing proper broodstock and lack of sufficient tank space. Previous work on cod broodstock in Atlantic Canada has been performed, utilizing a diet of baitfish (herring, mackerel, squid) and vitamin supplementation, with good success. However, a wild baitfish diet has numerous drawbacks including inconsistent supply and quality of product, as well as potential introduction of diseases.

Preliminary studies in Newfoundland in 2004 using formulated experimental diets did not lead to positive results. However, as broodstock development moves towards using F1-generated captive broodfish and away from wild-caught fish, the need for the use of a formulated manufactured diet is paramount. F1-broodfish are never fed a baitfish diet and are reared on formulated feeds from weaning.

Gadid broodstock diets have recently been developed by feed companies world wide. So far, comprehensive comparisons between current standard feeding practices and newly available diets have not been performed. This project is investigating the effect of these diets on fish condition, gamete quality, egg fertilization, larval performance, post-spawning condition and the ability of fish to recrudesce properly.

Duration: Apr ‘08 – Mar ’11.

Funded by: DFO-ACRDP. Co-funded by: Northern Cod Ventures, Genome Canada. 

Project team: Dounia Hamoutene(DFO), Lynn Lush(DFO), Jonathan Moir (Northern Cod Ventures Ltd.), Danny Boyce (Memorial University)

For information contact: Dounia Hamoutene (

Cod broodstock held at the Ocean Sciences Centre

Cod stripping

Research reveals how photoperiod affects growth and sexual maturation in juvenile cod

Light control in aquaculture has been used to increase growth and influence sexual maturation. However, long light periods advance maturation at the cost of muscle production. In addition, growth of significantly fattier livers in fish under extended photoperiods significantly reduces commercial productivity. To improve growth and to be able to efficiently control environmental interactions, it is necessary to understand the mechanisms through which these processes operate and how storage of energy sources (i.e., fats) may be affected.

This project, underway at the DFO St. Andrews Biological Station, is examining how differences in light period change patterns of protein production (i.e., muscle growth) as well as lipid metabolism, energy storage, and sexual maturation.

Research already completed has focused on growth and the protein content of tissues. Twenty-four hour light produced significant increases in growth (i.e., length, body and liver mass) and protein content that lasted throughout the experiment. Protein found in the blood did not vary between different light periods although it did increase with fish size. Increased muscle protein content under 24-h light may indicate changes in the controls for protein manufacture.

Follow-up work continues on the mechanisms responsible for the decline in protein per unit muscle produced.

Duration: Dec ‘06 – Dec ’09

Funded by: DFO

Project team: D. John Martell (DFO), Les Burridge (DFO), Steve Leadbeater (DFO), Tammy Blair (DFO)

For information contact: John Martell (

International workshop probes cod gyrodactylosis

An international workshop on cod gyrodactylosis was held September 21-23, 2008 in St Andrews, NB, at the Huntsman Marine Science Centre and the DFO biological station. Experts from Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Scotland, and Canada discussed the emergence of this disease in captive cod in the North Atlantic and an application for a strategic grant (to NSERC) was developed and submitted.

The project involves four main components. The first is the identification of the species involved (7 known to date) using both morphometric and molecular data. The second is the determination of the transmission dynamics of each species to allow development of prophylactic measures. Third is the development of environmentally-friendly treatments (e.g., avoiding the use of formalin baths which are not only toxic to the environment, but also render the fish more susceptible to further infection). The fourth component involves identification of those captive stocks which show increased resistance to infection and hence would be more useful to the aquaculture industry.

Proceedings of the Workshop are now in press and copies can be obtained from

Duration: May ’09 – Apr ’12.

Funded by: NSERC.

Project team: M.D.B.Burt (UNB), Scott R. Gilmore (DFO); Russell H. Easy (Dalhousie U); Stanley K. King (SMU). Tor-Atle Mo (NVI Norway); Kjetil Olstad (NVI Norway); Haakon Hansen (NVI Norway); Willy Hemmingsen (U Tromso, Norway); Ken MacKenzie (U Aberdeen, Scotland); Catherine Collins (Fisheries Research Services, Scotland); Kurt Buchmann (U Copenhagen, Denmark); Matthias Eydal (U Iceland).

For information contact: David Cone (

Project improves broodstock and creates genomics tools for an Atlantic cod industry

The $18.1 million Atlantic Cod Genomics and Broodstock Development Project (CGP) aims to develop a breeding program and a set of fundamental genomics tools that will be used to supply the developing Atlantic cod aquaculture industry in Canada with improved broodstock. Family-based breeding programs have been initiated in Newfoundland, Labrador, New Brunswick and New Hampshire ensuring that local stocks can be used for the benefit of industry partners. CGP data suggest that the breeding programs will be highly successful at improving growth rates of cod for aquaculture.

CGP has dramatically improved the availability of genomic resources for this species. At present, 85.8% of publicly available DNA sequence information for cod was contributed by the CGP. Thousands of cod genomic markers have been identified, and a microarray or “cod chip” is in production. Other characteristics including tolerance to stress and disease are also being assessed in juvenile cod. A cod genetic map is in development, and will be used to identify quantitative trait loci (QTL) and to develop markers applicable in Marker Assisted Selection (MAS). MAS will enable rapid enhancement of cod broodstock.

Finally, the Genomics-Related Ethical, Economic, Environmental, Legal and Social issues (GE3LS) team is developing solution-oriented legal and policy options regarding: ownership of commercially valuable research results, the status of elite cod broodstock under Canadian environmental law and Canada’s international obligations, and options regarding benefit sharing and improved methods of consultation with the affected publics.

(Photo: M. Rise)

Duration: Jan ‘06 – Dec ‘09.

Funded by: Genome Atlantic. Co-Funded by: The Atlantic Genome Centre (TAGC), Genome Canada, Huntsman Marine Science Centre, Atlantic Canada Opportunity Agency – Atlantic Innovation Fund, Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Newfoundland and Labrador, DFO-ACRDP, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (St. Andrews Biological Station and Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Centre), The National Research Council’s Institute for Marine Biosciences, The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, the Provinces of New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia, Memorial University of Newfoundland Ocean Sciences Centre, University of British Columbia, University of Guelph, University of New Brunswick, Cooke Aquaculture Inc., GreatBay Aquaculture, Newfoundland Cod Broodstock Company, The Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association, Northern Cod Ventures, RPC – The Technical Solutions Centre. 

Project Team: Sharen Bowman (Genome Atlantic), Ed Trippel (DFO), Keith Culver (DFO), A. Kurt Gamperl (MUN-OSC), Stewart Johnson (DFO), Matthew L. Rise (MUN-OSC), Andy Robinson

For information contact: Sharen Bowman ( or Ed Trippel (


Long term project continues development and optimization of larviculture techniques

The marine fish research and development team was formed in 1994 to develop a viable alternative to salmon aquaculture in the Bay of Fundy. Haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus) was the first species targeted. Connors Brothers Ltd. joined the project in 1996, leading to the transfer of the first fish to sea in 1997. The first phase of research and development focused on the development of rearing techniques and feeding strategies.

In 2003, industry interest shifted from haddock to Atlantic cod. To support the viable development of an alternative species, the team transferred its field of research to this new species and, at the same time, entered the second phase of research and development, which involved optimizing the techniques and reducing operating costs to achieve viability.

The Coastal Zones Research Institute (CZRI) is currently working with Cooke Aquaculture Inc. on automating and optimizing live feed production and on the various steps of Atlantic cod larviculture. The team recently completed testing on a high-density rotifer production system applicable to Atlantic cod farming. The use of such a system is a world first for marine fish farming.

Duration: 1994 – Ongoing

Funded by: NBDAA

Project team: Rémy Haché (CZRI), Yves Hébert (CZRI), Claude Landry (CZRI), Caroline Roussel (CZRI), Cooke Aquaculture, NBDAA, U Moncton Shippigan Campus

For information contact: Rémy Haché (

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