Pacific Cod Adaptation in Puget Sound

Local Adaptation in Puget Sound Pacific Cod (Gadus macrocephalus)

Researchers are identifying genetic markers in Pacific cod associated with adaptation to warming waters, which will inform future conservation of depleted Puget Sound stocks.

Principal Investigator

Lorenz Hauser, University of Washington, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences

Co-Principal Investigators

Michael Canino, NOAA, Alaska Fisheries Science Center

Tein-Shui Tsou, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife


Washington Sea Grant-sponsored researchers are undertaking a common garden experiment. They will rear cod from Puget Sound and the other regions under identical conditions and subject both to warmer water, then identify population adaptations to these changing conditions and explore the genetic factors associated with adaptation.

Research Updates


The Pacific cod in Washington’s inland waters are a genetically distinct population, once abundant and commercially important but now listed as a NOAA species of concern. They live near the southern limit of the species’ range and could be further impacted by oceanic warming. Along the Eastern Seaboard, Atlantic cod are already shifting northward and showing strong temperature-related genetic gradients. Future management and possible aquaculture or supplemental stocking will depend on how the depleted local population responds to a warming environment and whether lineages that are more adaptable can be identified.


With the help of commercial fishermen and NOAA personnel, researchers succeeded in capturing and rearing Pacific cod; they anticipate having larvae soon for experiments. Using the latest genetic technologies they recorded 135 million sequences and 60,000 unique genetic markers in the cod genome. Sixty percent of these markers may be matched to the Atlantic cod genome, providing a powerful basis for further experiments.