Study demonstrate light can prevent early maturation of farmed cod

The LuxCod project, carried out by researchers from Møreforsking, used cod from one of Ode's fish farms.
Use of light on an Ode fish farm. The LuxCod study demonstrates it can prevent early maturation of farmed cod. Photo: Ode.
Use of light on an Ode fish farm. The LuxCod study demonstrates it can prevent early maturation of farmed cod. Photo: Ode.

Proper use of light in fish farms can prevent the early maturation of cod beyond the production period. This is demonstrated by the LuxCod study carried out by researchers from the Norwegian non-profit research company Møreforsking using cod from one of the farms of the also Norwegian producer Ode.

The excellent biological results of the study represent an important scientific advance in the breeding of this species with positive repercussions not only at the economic level but also at the environmental level.

Breakthrough for the cod farming community

To conduct the study, researchers focused on measuring and documenting how continuous light management influences the fish pens to understand its effects on cod maturation and to determine whether such light control can prevent early it during the rearing period. As said, the experiment was carried out with cod from one of Ode's fish farms.

Together with the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research (IMR) and BioMarin, the farmed cod producer has developed a comprehensive light management regime based on academic research and his own experience as a farmer. Ode has built up a technique that ensures that the fish do not reach sexual maturity in the pens, which, the company explains, allows optimal production while avoiding genetic influences and ecological problems.

Following observation by Møreforsking researchers, the results of the LuxCod study certify that light management significantly delays sexual maturation in farmed cod. "On the basis of the overall assessment of the various parameters, it is concluded that the light management has a good delaying effect on the development of gonads and that it can largely prevent sexual maturation during the natural spawning season in fish that have been in the sea for more than 20 months, even if development is not stopped completely," reads the introduction to the study, which is available on the Møreforsking website (in Norwegian).

"This is an important breakthrough for the entire cod farming community and proves our potential to grow to a large share of the seafood category," pointed out Ola Kvalheim, founder and CEO of Ode. "It has been important to document these findings through scientific studies. It gives both the authorities, the customers and the entire public domain the facts supporting our sustainable and important food production capabilities," he added.

Ola Kvalheim, CEO of Ode. Photo: Ode.

Economic and environmental benefits

The truth is that being able to control sexual maturation in farmed cod has important economic and environmental advantages. From the point of view of the production companies, early sexual maturation translates into increased mortality, lower growth rates, and reduced quality, i.e., economic losses. Being able to control this is undoubtedly a key factor for the development of this young industry on a larger scale.

Regarding environmental effects, the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research has warned about the potential risks of sexually mature farmed fish spawning in the pens, which could affect the surrounding wild cod. Actually, earlier this year, another producer, Norcod, had to accelerate the harvest after the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries took action following samples showing parts of their biomass could evolve to spawning-ready. In an interview with WeAreAquaculture shortly afterward, its Sustainability Manager, Hilde R. Storhaug, acknowledged that this difficulty had affected its short-term growth plan.

As said, being able to control this factor in cod farming greatly increases its potential to contribute to the sustainable production of healthy proteins. The results of the LuxCod project further confirm its viability and future growth, which makes Ode's CEO enthusiastic. As he said in a recent interview, it's not just about creating a business, but a whole culture.

"The world is currently grappling with food inflation, heavily affecting households world-wide. Our current protein and food supply problems will be insignificant compared to a failure to deliver on the doubling of protein production by 2050," Ola Kvalheim said. "The forecast by the United Nations of a doubling in the protein demand by 2050 will require bold changes as we also know that our current protein production makes up 25% of total global Co2 footprint. Farmed seafood can answer both these challenges," he concluded.

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