Guelph, Ont. – A project that could transform Atlantic salmon aquaculture has received nearly $3.8 million in federal and industry funding.
The University of Guelph-led salmon genome project will receive $1.2 million from Genome Canada. Cooke Aquaculture and other granting agencies will provide matching funds.
The funding is intended to help salmon farmers identify fast-growing fish that resist disease and parasites.
Professor Elizabeth Boulding of Integrative Biology will lead the project in conjunction with the Genome Atlantic/Ontario Genomics Institute.
The researchers hope to help farmers improve survival rates of eggs and juvenile stages and use fewer vaccines and medication.
The three-year project began this past April. Boulding’s team is working with Cooke Aquaculture Inc. and its farming division, Kelly Cove Salmon Ltd.
Boulding, who is also working with Larry Schaeffer, professor in Animal and Poultry Science, will blend genomic marker information with conventional methods to improve salmon breeding programs.
The U of Guelph says the team will use existing gene chips and develop new ones for genomic markers in breeding fish.
“Genetic merit is used to rank the potential mothers and fathers of salmon, and decide which parents should be chosen for breeding,” explains Boulding.
“This new genomics technology will enable us to do so more accurately, thereby increasing the genetic gain per generation.”
Boulding says this research could transform the Canadian aquaculture industry. For one thing, if the team is successful, egg and juvenile survival to adulthood is likely to increase. This will result in better salt-water performance and reduce companys’ need to add vaccines and medication.
Cooke Aquaculture, Kelly Cove Salmon’s parent company, employs 1,700 people in Atlantic Canada, and has committed to growing its farming division and producing more farmed salmon to meet global food demands.
The project is based on more than 20 years of international research on genomic markers, including recent studies by Boulding along with researchers from Kelly Cove Salmon.
Boulding’s research team has discovered several genomic markers correlated with growth and parasite resistance.
“We hope to be able to incorporate this new genomic technology into our current breeding program and thereby increase our company’s ability to compete internationally,” says Jake Elliott, vice-president, freshwater and technical operations, and head of Cooke Aquaculture’s breeding program.
“Other countries have started to incorporate genomic technology into their salmon farming operations. We look forward to working with Dr. Boulding and her team on this innovative project. As a major employer in Eastern Canada, we need to continually embrace innovation in order to remain a global industry leader and be able to provide ongoing social and economic benefits to coastal and rural Atlantic Canada.”
Main photo courtesy of amenic181 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net