The fifth generation of farmed cod has many of the desired characteristics in place regarding growth and disease resistance. The cod has become livestock. Photo: Frank Gregersen © Nofima

Project Year 2019

The cod has become livestock

 Production biology  

The breeding and farming of cod is on its way to success. As with salmon, scientists have now domesticated Atlantic cod by selective breeding.

“At least the biology indicates that we are now ready to take a step further and increase the volume of farmed cod”, says Nofima scientist Øyvind J. Hansen.

He is scientifically responsible for both the National Breeding Programme for Cod and the Centre for Marine Aquaculture, which Nofima has been running since its inception in 2003.

Grow rapidly

The aim was to breed farmed cod that have better growth characteristics than wild cod and that possess higher resistance to fish diseases.

Domesticating (turning into livestock) new species of fish takes time. With the fifth generation of farmed cod now growing at sea, many of the desired characteristics are in place regarding growth and disease resistance.

“Individuals from families of cod that have grown well and have been chosen to produce future generations have a good genetic basis for being adapted to a domesticated life. The cod bred in our facilities show no signs of wanting to escape, are not stressed by humans, and grow rapidly. Cage mortality is 16%. We now have fish that reach the target weight of three kilos after 22 months at sea”, says Øyvind J. Hansen.

Better starting point

Nofima has breeding stock from 600 families. Breeding stock from around 200 families is used for each generation.

“At first, we started a new generation every year. We have now merged the different cohorts to have a solid base for future selections which happens every third year”, says Øyvind J. Hansen.

The improvements that have been made over these 15 years, both in breeding and in production, provide cod farmers with a much better starting point regarding their production than they had before. It provides increased production predictability and increased opportunities to achieve profitability within marine-based farming.

“The knowledge and infrastructure gained from the breeding programme for cod can be used for many different purposes. However, further genetic improvement of farmed cod is most important to us”, says Øyvind J. Hansen.

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries

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