Atlantic Salmon breeding to Improve Commercial Performance
Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) aquaculture is a significant food producer and economic contributor in Atlantic Canada – providing 323 million meals and 8,000 jobs each year.
Huntsman Marine offers extensive breeding program capacity that assesses the natural variability for traits of interest in a specific population to allow selection and performance improvements with no genetic modification required.
We initiated a long-term effort in 2010 that continues today, initially with Northern Harvest Sea Farms and now with Mowi Canada East, to improve performance of commercially important traits within a local Atlantic salmon broodstock population.
Our first Huntsman-led research project was associated with establishing the Atlantic salmon farming sector locally back in 1974. In 1983, Huntsman Marine further led a Salmon Genetics Research Program that assessed six New Brunswick river strains for performance in aquaculture production. The Saint John River stock was deemed to be the best and this North American-origin genetic strain still forms the basis today in local fish farming operations.
We continue to conduct breeding and genetic selection research to increase productivity, tolerance to a changing culture environment, pathogen resistance and product quality in aquatic farm operations, including Atlantic salmon, Atlantic cod, Arctic charr, rainbow trout, and lumpfish amongst other species. Atlantic salmon is the most significant local farmed fish species and our more recent effort to improve commercial performance began in 2010. In October 2020, Mowi Canada East announced a further 10-year contract with Huntsman Marine to provide local support for this Atlantic salmon population (https://www.fishfarmingexpert.com/breeding-programme-genetic-selection-huntsman-science-centre/mowi-hires-huntsman-to-track-down-best-broodfish/1282295). Our effort within this broodstock program involves:
Controlled challenges allowing the Huntsman Marine team to assess performance for very specific traits while controlling other variables that might otherwise affect the observed results. As an example, we have completed yearly assessments since the 2010 year class of this same Atlantic salmon population for resistance to sea lice infestation using controlled challenges to improve performance. Similarly, resistance to the Saprolegnia water fungus was explored after Huntsman Marine developed an appropriate controlled challenge (Resistance to Saprolegnia parasitica infection: A heritable trait in Atlantic salmon: https://doi.org/10.1111/jfd.13664).
Climate change is expected to affect performance of farmed aquatic animals as the environmental temperature increases and Huntsman Marine developed a suitable controlled challenge to measure tolerance performance and heritability of this trait in Atlantic salmon (in collaboration with UNB Fredericton; Acute critical thermal maximum does not predict chronic incremental thermal maximum in Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar): https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cbpa.2022.111143).
Huntsman Marine has developed standard methods and we are well equipped to visit processing plants globally to complete harvest evaluations and record thousands of data points that measure performance across a series of relevant traits, such as growth, fillet colour, and overall performance (Genetic and phenotypic evaluation of harvest traits from a comprehensive commercial Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar L., broodstock program: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aquaculture.2019.01.001).
In 2022, the Government of Canada through Genome Canada and Genome Atlantic announced funding for a collaborative project between Mowi Canada East and Huntsman Marine to map the genomic markers for traits of interest in North American origin Atlantic salmon. (https://genomeatlantic.ca/new-research-approved-for-atlantic-salmon-aquaculture-and-forestry/).
Aspects of research described in this Huntsman Marine Science Centre Impact Spotlight were funded by private sector Study Sponsors, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, and the Government of Canada through Genome Canada and Genome Atlantic.
Reach out to The Huntsman Marine Science Centre if you have any questions: