Technologies for sablefish aquaculture

Development and Commercial Transfer of Technologies to Improve the Hatching Success and Production of Juvenile Black Cod (Sablefish), Anoplopoma fimbria

Researchers are exploring new technologies to improve sablefish commercial fisheries.

Principal Investigator

Graham Young, University of Washington, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences

Co-Principal Investigators

Mary Arkoosh, NOAA, Northwest Fisheries Science Center

John Dentler, Troutlodge Sablefish LLC

Walton Dickoff, NOAA, Northwest Fisheries Science Center

Joseph Dietrich, NOAA, Northwest Fisheries Science Center

William Fairgrieve, NOAA, Northwest Fisheries Science Center

Rick Goetz, NOAA, Northwest Fisheries Science Center

Kurt Grinnell, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe

Laura Hoberecht, NOAA, National Marine Fisheries Service

Adam Luckenbach, NOAA, Northwest Fisheries Science Center

Jim Parsons, Troutlodge Sablefish LLC



Pacific sablefish, with their firm flesh and buttery flavor, are an exceptionally valuable food fish. But wild harvests are limited, and bottlenecks in larval production have discouraged sablefish aquaculture. This project will remove these barriers by using newly developed technologies to produce all-female (hence faster-growing) larvae on a commercial scale, to wean them faster from costly live food to industrial feed, and to rear them at optimal temperatures for growth. It will also explore new techniques to induce ovulation, improve fertilization success, and vaccinate larvae by immersion rather than giving expensive injections at the fry stage.

Research Updates

Washington Sea Grant researchers investigated potential solutions to the obstacles that prevent sablefish from becoming commercially viable. They developed and tested new protocols for producing better eggs and increasing larval production. In an effort to speed growth rates, they selected only females for rearing, reared the larvae at warmer temperatures, and investigated the use of DMSP, a chemical produced by plankton, the larvae’s favorite food. To reduce feeding costs, they substituted clay for expensive plankton. They also developed new technologies for protecting juveniles against disease.

These innovations succeeded in producing sablefish larvae at commercial scale (batches of 10,000), speeding their development, reducing larval mortality by 97 percent and lowering feeding costs. Hormone injections raised fertilization rates and lowered spawning time. Introducing various levels of DMSP speeded larval growth by up to 100 percent. Researchers successfully used a vaccine to protect sablefish against Aeromonas salmonicida, a common sablefish disease, and determined that clay could replace costly algae as feed.

Annual Reports

2015 Progress Report