Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Around the Arctic April 02, 2012 - 2:10 pm

Vancouver Aquarium rears its first batch of baby Arctic cod

"A stepping stone to future research on this very important species"

NUNATSIAQ NEWS

Vancouver Aquarium marine biologists say they have achieved “a significant breakthrough” in the controlled breeding of Arctic cod.

For the first time in North America, aquarium biologists successfully hatched and reared several hundred Arctic cod to the juvenile stage over a period of six months.

“Rearing Arctic cod is a delicate and intensive process, and the early development stages are critical to the livelihood of the cod,” said Danny Kent, curator at the Vancouver Aquarium, said in an April 2 news release. “The Arctic cod larvae and eggs are extremely fragile and require meticulous and constant expert care to thrive. Successfully bringing the larvae to the juvenile stage could be a stepping stone to future research on this very important species.”

Arctic cod live in many parts of northern Canada, including the Beaufort Sea, the High Arctic islands, Hudson Bay, Baffin Bay, and along the coasts of Labrador and Newfoundland.

They spend about nine months a year under the ice, which making it challenging for scientists to collect vital information on their life cycle and basic requirements to live, the aquarium news release noted.

Arctic cod are a primary food source for narwhals, belugas and ringed seals,  and they’re preyed upon by Arctic char, Greenland halibut, Atlantic salmon and Atlantic cod.

But no one knows how these fish will respond to the changing Arctic climate, which are affecting the temperature, salinity and acidity of Arctic waters.

“What we don’t know today is how this change will impact key species like the Arctic cod. Successfully rearing Arctic cod at the aquarium means scientists can study aspects of their lives that previously were difficult, if not, impossible to study,” said Dr. John Nightingale, president and chief executive officer of the Vancouver Aquarium, in the same release.

In 2009, the Vancouver Aquarium opened its “Arctic Connections” exhibit to highlight, among other things, issues facing Arctic ecosystems and the importance of Arctic research.

The aquarium is the only aquarium in North America to have Arctic cod on display.

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