Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC) Environmental and Fisheries Sciences EFS - Aquaculture


Sablefish Muscle Physiology
Sablefish Muscle Physiology
Meat producing animals in agriculture are the result of ongoing genetic selection for desirable characteristics related to growth rates, feed efficiencies, product yield, and quality. Skeletal muscle is the valuable end product and is a major contributor to an animal’s mass, energy metabolism, and overall health. Considering aquaculture is relatively new to the agriculture sector, our knowledge of growth processes in other meat producing species will serve as a platform for advancing our understanding of finfish muscle growth physiology.

Patterns of fish muscle growth originate at the cellular level and are influenced by genetic and environmental factors. Variation in muscle growth exists between fish species, as well as between individual fish of the same species. Cellular growth mechanisms in muscle are significantly influenced by factors like developmental stage, exercise, nutrition, temperature, light duration, and salinity. Understanding how these factors interact with genetic determinants to modify muscle growth patterns in fish will be important to optimizing muscle growth and sustainable practices in aquaculture.

We will evaluate expression levels of genes known to control muscle growth in vertebrates. Our goal is to identify a physiological marker of enhanced growth in sablefish that can be applied to broodstock selection strategies and future nutrition and rearing condition experiments. Sablefish is a model marine coldwater species from the north Pacific Ocean with commercial aquaculture potential. The immediate application of a growth marker would contribute to achieving faster growing sablefish strains for more efficient aquaculture production.

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.


physiological parameters
various parameters measured in fish to distinguish normal from abnormal function


None associated


Species Anoplopoma fimbria


Lisa Armbruster
Internal Collaborator
Ronald Johnson
Principal Investigator