$3.8m funding for Canadian salmon genome project

A genome project being carried out by the Canadian University of Guelph that could help improve the Atlantic salmon aquaculture industry, is to receive CAD$3.8m in federal and industry funding.

Minister of State for Industry, Ed Holder, recently announced that Genome Canada will contribute almost CAD$1.2m to the project, aimed at helping salmon farmers identify fast-growing fish that resist disease and parasites.

Researchers hope to help farmers improve survival rates of eggs and juvenile stages and use fewer vaccines and medication.

The three-year project began earlier this year. Led, by Professor Elizabeth Boulding, Integrative Biology, the team will work with Cooke Aquaculture Inc and its farming division, Kelly Cove Salmon Ltd, which will also provide funds for the project.

Ms Boulding will blend genomic marker information with conventional methods to improve salmon breeding programmes. 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,” Ms Boulding explained. “This new genomics technology will enable us to do so more accurately, thereby increasing the genetic gain per generation.”

“If we are successful, we will increase survival of eggs and juveniles to adulthood, result in better salt-water performance, and reduce the need for vaccines and medication,” Ms Boulding said.

“Fish that are more disease-resistant will require less medication. They will also be less likely to become infected from wild fish or transmit parasites or diseases back to wild salmon,” she added.

So far, the team has discovered several genomic markets correlated with growth and parasite resistance.

Cooke Aquaculture says it hopes to incorporate this new genomic technology into its current breeding programme in a bid to increase its global competitiveness.

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