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  • Determination and practical application of egg quality measures toward reliable culture of high-value marine finfish species


Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC) Environmental and Fisheries Sciences EFS - Aquaculture; EFS - Marine Fish and Shellfish Biology


Marine Finfish Egg Quality
Determination and practical application of egg quality measures toward reliable culture of high-value marine finfish species
There is increasing global awareness of the need for sustainable aquaculture. Aquaculture represents a potential mechanism for supplementing wild fish harvests, either through stocking of cultured animals or farming to market size. In the first case, stocked animals would be available to sport and commercial fishermen. In the latter, consumer demand would be met directly with a farmed product, reducing pressure on wild stocks. By the year 2030, the global population is projected to reach 8.2 billion, with an expected demand for seafood of 150 million metric tons (mmt), 54 mmt of which the Food and Agriculture Organization (www.fao.org) estimates that aquaculture must contribute.

Meanwhile in the U.S., an astounding 86% of the seafood consumed is imported ($9 billion annually), which makes seafood second only to oil as the largest natural resource contributor to our national trade deficit. There remains a great need for U.S. aquaculture production to fill the seafood void. Commercial-scale production of marine finfish in the U.S. is limited to a handful of species, however, including red drum, Pacific threadfin, cobia, cod, and flounder (excluding the anadromous Atlantic salmon), and production is often inconsistent. On the U.S. West Coast, many native marine species represent good potential candidates for aquaculture. Most of these, such as California sheephead, California halibut, cabezon, lingcod, white seabass, and rockfishes, are fully or over-exploited by capture fisheries. Other high-value species like California yellowtail and yellowfin tuna are transitory, with apparently healthy populations, but based on success elsewhere in the world, are believed to offer excellent potential for commercial aquaculture development in the U.S. A major step in the creation of a viable and profitable marine aquaculture industry lies in developing reliable fingerling production, and central to this is understanding the variables that determine egg and larval quality. The lack of knowledge in what optimizes egg and larval quality is an important limiting factor in developing culture techniques for any species (Kjorsvik et al. 1990; Bromage 1995). Inconsistent or poor egg quality significantly affects the production and viability of larval and juvenile fish. In the absence of high-quality eggs, it is not possible to optimize husbandry practices because larval performance is substandard under typical culture conditions, such as high stocking densities, aggressive weaning regimes, and grading or other handling procedures.

Unfortunately, identifying simple indicators of egg quality has been difficult as no individual metric is universally applicable within and among species. This proposal seeks to identify easy-to-use indictors, as well as determine pre- and post-spawning factors that affect egg quality, in up to three very different ecologically and economically valuable marine fish species native to the U.S. West Coast: a highly-pelagic finfish, the California yellowtail (Seriola lalandi; CYT); a deep-sea whitefish, the sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria; SF); and/or a semi-resident benthic flatfish species, the California halibut (Paralichthys californicus; CH). All three species are multiple batch spawners, producing large numbers of eggs several times over the course of a spawning season. Defining the differences between high and low quality eggs and documenting correlations between quality and different conditions (e.g. broodstock diet, age, domestication status, spawning methods, or progression through the spawning season) will directly impact the success of culturing species like these. If inferior batches of eggs can be identified early on, culturists would have a valuable tool, which would significantly advance mariculture development along the U.S. West Coast and elsewhere by leading toward consistent fingerling production of species with great potential for culture.

Data Sets

no data found

Research Themes

Sustainable, safe and secure seafood for healthy populations and vibrant communities
Effective fisheries management provides economic opportunities and ensures the long-term sustainability of fisheries and the habitats on which they depend. The NWFSC seeks to improve the quality and quantity of data used in stock assessments, the methods for assessing stocks and ecosystem sustainability within the context of human modification of the environment. The NWFSC also provides state-of-the-art science and technology to support aquaculture while protecting and maintaining ecosystem health. Further, pathogens, toxins from harmful algal blooms (HABs), chemical contaminants and other stressors of marine ecosystems pose significant risks to health of both seafood resources and to humans. The NWFSC focuses on research to improve understanding of those risks, how to forecast them, and identify means to mitigate their impacts.

Research Foci

Develop research and technology to foster innovative and sustainable approaches to aquaculture
The NOAA Aquaculture Policy calls for enabling sustainable aquaculture that provides domestic jobs, products, and services and that is in harmony with healthy, productive, and resilient marine ecosystems. To achieve these goals, NWFSC’s research examines scientific and technical issues to support aquaculture production. NWFSC research also considers potential impacts of aquaculture practices on the environment and on wild populations of fish and shellfish and methods for diminishing those impacts. Specific research objectives include (1) identify methods for reducing reliance on forage fish protein and oil in aquaculture feeds; this includes the evaluation of plant and microbe-based alternatives for fish meal and oil, because fishmeal and oil used in producing artificial fish diets is unsustainable and often a source of contaminants, (2) evaluate and model potential genetic impacts of aquaculture escapes on natural populations, (3) develop shellfish research that will support regional initiatives, such as the Washington Shellfish Initiative, especially native shellfish restoration and (4) develop new marine species for aquaculture and shore-based marine recirculating aquaculture systems.


California halibut
Paralichthys californicus, a promising new aquaculture species from the eastern Pacific Ocean
The culture of fish, aquatic invertibrates, and aquatic plants for the production of food
egg quality
correlating progeny survival and fitness with biochemical composition
common name for Anoplopoma fimbria. Other common names include black cod and butterfish.


None associated


Species Anoplopoma fimbria
Species Paralichthys californicus
California halibut
Species Seriola lalandi
Hiramasa kingfish, yellowtail , yellowtail amberjack, yellowtail jack, yellowtail kingfish


Kristen Gruenthal
Internal Collaborator
Lisa Armbruster
External Collaborator
Rick Goetz
Internal Collaborator
Ronald Johnson
Principal Investigator