• Projects
  • Developing diets and feeding strategies for improved growth and performance of juvenile and adult sablefish


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


Growth and Nutritional Physiology of Marine Fishes
Developing diets and feeding strategies for improved growth and performance of juvenile and adult sablefish
Feed costs and time to harvest are key factors affecting the economic viability of domestic sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria) aquaculture. Use of fast growing all-female monosex stocks dramatically reduces time to harvest, but our research to date indicates that the commercial salmon feeds typically used by industry are not optimally formulated for sablefish and there is still a high degree of potential for improved growth and feed conversion. The effects of dietary balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrate on productive performance, growth and feed conversion at any post-juvenile stage of development are unknown, and there are no commercial diets specifically formulated for sablefish aquaculture in the marketplace. Dietary nutrient imbalances combined with inappropriate feeding schedules and strategies contribute to poor nutrient utilization and are unlikely to fully support the growth potential of this species, impeding continued efforts to improve performance during grow-out to harvest. Thus, research activity focuses on establishing performance optimized diets and feeding strategies that support maximum growth, efficient feed conversion and other economically important traits such as fillet yield.

Research Themes

Recovery and rebuilding of marine and coastal species
The Pacific Northwest is home to several iconic endangered species, including Pacific salmon and killer whales, and several rockfish species. Mandates such as the Endangered Species Act, MagnusonStevens Act, and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, grant NOAA Fisheries the authority to manage the recovery of depleted species and stocks. The NWFSC contributes to species recovery through research, monitoring and analysis, providing NOAA managers and regional stakeholders the tools and information they need to craft effective regulations and develop sustainable plans for recovery.
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

Characterize the population biology of species, and develop and improve methods for predicting the status of populations
To evaluate species status and recovery, it is necessary to understand key aspects of the population biology of the species in question. This includes basic information on abundance, age structure, recruitment, spatial distribution, life history and how the species interacts with its ecosystem. For some recovering species, including most overfished groundfish stocks, many ESA-listed Pacific salmon stocks, and high profile species such as Southern Resident killer whales, this basic information is often reasonably well understood. For other recovering species, such as Pacific eulachon and some ESA-listed rockfish species, even basic information (e.g. stock abundance) is unknown. Even for well-studied species, key information on survival rates for critical life stages and how the environment affects these vital rates is lacking. Without basic information on species dynamics, achieving other goals such as quantifying relationships between human activities and species recovery or even knowing if species recovery goals are being met will not be successful. The NWFSC, in partnership with regional stakeholders, including states, tribes and industry, is conducting research to collect and monitor critical demographic information for recovering species.
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.


male maturation indicator
growth hormone
Processes that sustain life and allow growth
The culture of fish, aquatic invertibrates, and aquatic plants for the production of food
new formulations for future industry growth
use of genetic markers to determine differential reproductive success between adults with different life histories
marine fishes
Fishes found in the marine environment
common name for Anoplopoma fimbria. Other common names include black cod and butterfish.


None associated


Family Anoplopomatidae
Genus Anoplopoma
Order Scorpaeniformes
Species Anoplopoma fimbria


Adam Luckenbach
Principal Investigator
Crystal Simchick
Edward Hayman
Giles Goetz
Gina Ylitalo
Internal Collaborator
Jonelle Gates
Internal Collaborator
Krista Nichols
Internal Collaborator
Paul Chittaro
Internal Collaborator
Rick Goetz
Internal Collaborator
William Fairgrieve
Principal Investigator