Hatchery International

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Speeding up salmon breeding


July 16, 2021
By Hatchery International Staff

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While North American Atlantic salmon are one of the main marine finfish grown in the U.S. aquaculture industry, until now, uniquely developed genomic resources were not publicly available for the research and breeding of this species in the U.S.

However, after recently assisting scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in the development of single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers, Breeding Insight has partnered with the USDA through Cornell University to help provide genetic tools for U.S. breeders, which will quicken the breeding of North American Atlantic salmon.

“SNP markers are like milestones on the highway,” said Dr. Yniv Palti, USDA ARS research geneticist and project lead. “These navigation points dramatically increase the speed at which breeders can select and introduce genes for traits that benefit fish farmers and consumers alike.” To assist USDA researchers in the salmon SNP marker project, Breeding Insight provided expertise at the intersection of molecular biology and computing technology, more commonly known as bioinformatics.

By enabling researchers to pinpoint sections of the genome associated with particular traits, this program looks to bring the power of predictive breeding to salmon breeders.

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Some traits of interest specific to North American Atlantic salmon include:

  • sea lice
  • disease resistance
  • fillet colour and composition
  • Beneficial fatty acids

“By combining traditional breeding approaches with genomics and informatics, it is now possible to accurately predict some of the traits and performance of an individual long before it matures,” said Dr. Moira Sheehan, director of Breeding Insight. “But the challenges facing specialty species such as salmon too often hamper technology adoption and limit program efficiency. Our goal at Breeding Insight is to level the playing field and create new opportunities for specialty crop and animal breeders to take value out of the genomics era.”

Early indications point to successful uptake of the SNP markers by the salmon breeding industry, as biotechnology company, The Center for Aquaculture Technologies (CAT) has organized a consortium committed to offering processing of 50,000 copies of the SNP set, as part of a genotyping services offered by CAT.