Selective breeding programs are supporting the rapid growth of Australia's abalone aquaculture industry.
Breeding better Australian abalone
Selective breeding is being used to improve the quality and production efficiency of Australian farmed abalone.
4 December 2007 | Updated 14 October 2011
Scientists from the Food Futures Flagship are working with abalone growers to develop strategies and tools for improving the growth, survival, yield and quality of farmed abalone through selective breeding.
Selective breeding uses targeted matings to increase the frequency of individuals with a desirable commercial trait in farm stocks.
As in most other primary industries, it will play an important role in the abalone aquaculture industry’s development.
The farming of abalone has risen rapidly since 1992, to nearly 20 000 tonnes globally in 2004.
During this time, the wild harvest has declined and stagnated at 9 500 tonnes.
China and Taiwan have the world’s largest abalone aquaculture industries.
While Australia produces nearly half of the world’s wild-caught abalone (worth some A$200 million in 2004), it contributes less than four per cent of farmed abalone.
Advances in abalone domestication and production techniques have driven a sharp rise in Australian production since 2002.
Farms in Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia are nearing their early production targets, with most aiming for a harvest of 50–150 tonnes a year.
At this rate of growth, abalone aquaculture will contribute a quarter of the total Australian abalone production by 2012.
A specific challenge with abalone farming in Australia is the commercial production of a hybrid between the two main species.
The hybrid appears to combine the best characteristics of each species, such as the market quality of one species, and the growth and survival characteristics of the other.
The advantages of hybrid production have not been scientifically assessed.
In comparing the benefits of breeding within and across species, issues such as hybrid vigour, and strategies for maintaining a hybrid advantage need to be explored.
Two native abalone species, greenlip abalone (Haliotis laevigata) and blacklip abalone (H. rubra), and their hybrid cross are being farmed in southern Australia.
Hundreds of abalone families (blacklip, greenlip and hybrid) are being created, and thousands of individuals tagged and monitored on-farm to determine:
Advances in abalone domestication and production techniques have driven a sharp rise in Australian production.
the range of genetic variation for traits such as growth, survival, meat yield and meat quality
genetic linkages between these traits
the potential gains for each trait through selective breeding
breeding strategies for hybrid production.
The research aims to raise the quality and efficiency of Australian abalone production by helping the industry to establish commercial breeding programs through:
understanding how genetics influence traits of commercial importance
developing tools to support a commercial selective breeding program
defining selective breeding strategies that maximise returns to Australian growers.
Abalone stocks and hatchery and grow-out facilities for the selective breeding research are provided by:
The following research tools will be developed to help overcome challenges relating to selective breeding of abalone, including:
techniques to control matings, including cryopreservation of sperm
tagging systems to identify families and individuals from a young age and enable mixing of families in the nursery environment
DNA pedigree systems to identify parentage in mixed-family units
a database framework for records of individual performance, pedigrees and mating strategies
objective measurement systems for assessing selection traits
economic assessment of selection traits
methods and systems for measuring genetic resistance to disease.
Read more about our work in Breed engineering.