In the 1990s, haddock’s popularity—and faltering stocks—motivated researchers to explore its potential as a farmed crop. By 2001, a partnership between the Canadian government and Heritage Salmon, Ltd., had made large-scale production of juvenile haddock a reality. This catalyzed the development of techniques in broodstock management, spawning, larval rearing, and feed formulation. By 2000, pilot crops of haddock were being raised in nearshore salmon pens in New Brunswick, Canada.
In 2002, UNH researchers teamed up with Heritage Salmon to explore the offshore potential of this species. Three thousand juvenile haddock, each weighing about half an ounce, were shipped to UNH’s Coastal Marine Laboratory. After a three-month stint in nearshore nursery cages, they were transferred to a Sea Station fish cage, manufactured by OceanSpar, Inc, at the demonstration site
The crop was fed a chemical-free, formulated diet, delivered from a surface feeder that pumps water mixed with food into the submerged cage. Researchers monitored and controlled feeding operations by wireless communications technology. The harvest yielded a healthy crop of Atlantic haddock in September 2004—15,000 pounds of whole fish, or about 7,000 pounds of filets, that earned high marks for flavor and freshness.
Results suggest that Atlantic haddock is a good candidate for open ocean culture. The fish grew well—from a half an ounce to nearly four pounds—and further research on feed formulation and maturation control will likely improve growth rates. Mortality was low; and there was no incidence of disease. None of the haddock escaped from the cage, and a rigorous monitoring program has detected no impact on the surrounding environment.