Sea lice breakthrough

Sea lice are one of the long-term challenges facing the aquaculture industry and affect production across the world Sea lice are one of the long-term challenges facing the aquaculture industry and affect production across the world

Scottish aquaculture genetics company Landcatch has succeeded in making farmed salmon more resistant to sea lice.

The company’s genetics experts have pinpointed a major gene that controls how susceptible individual fish are to sea lice infestation.

The genetic markers have already been used to screen broodstock selected in 2012 and have been introduced to the company’s egg production this year, ensuring the next generation of farmed salmon is more resistant to the parasites.

Neil Manchester, Managing Director of Landcatch, said: “We have located a major gene - or Quantitative Trait Loci (QTL) - controlling resistance to sea lice. This is mapped using variations in DNA sequences, or Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs), which act as biological markers and help scientists identify individual salmon that are more robust for breeding and egg production in Europe and Chile.

“This is a significant milestone for Landcatch and the aquaculture industry. This is available now, and the fact that we’ve achieved this breakthrough a year ahead of schedule is to be welcomed.”

Landcatch has developed a high density SNP Chip – glass slides used to analyse SNPs which act as biological markers and help scientists improve the accuracy of genetic predictions of resistance to disease and other commercially important traits. Dr Alan Tinch, Director of Genetics at Landcatch, said that genetic markers and genomic selection using the Landcatch SNP Chip for sea lice resistance are major steps forward in developing a sustainable improvement in sea lice resistance with resulting enhancement of the welfare and performance of Landcatch Atlantic salmon.

Samples from the Landcatch breeding programmes in Chile are also being screened to determine if the major gene is also effective against the Chilean form of sea lice.

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