The overall aim of this project is to unveil the transcriptional networks that regulate somatic growth in cod and to understand how they are influenced by photoperiod and sexual maturation. This fundamental knowledge has practical applications in aquaculture production, namely to solve the production bottleneck of growth impairment associated with precocious maturation and to develop molecular markers for breeding programmes.
Atlantic cod farming has seen a marked increase in recent years, with Norway being the major worldwide producer. The industry has great potential for expansion but there are some key bottlenecks that need to be overcome if productivity is to be increased. The major challenge during the on-growing phase is the reduction in growth rate and even weight loss associated with precocious sexual maturation, which increase production time and result in significant economic losses for the cod farming industry. In order to control this problem, it is crucial to identify the transcriptional networks that regulate muscle growth in cod and to understand how they are influenced by sexual maturation and environmental factors, such as photoperiod. In this context, the fundamental knowledge generated from this project will provide substantial benefits to the cod farming industry, namely the identification of new targets to minimize the negative impact of maturation on growth performance and the development of molecular markers of growth for selective breeding programmes.