Breeding better salmon
The Food Futures Flagship is working with Tasmanian growers to improve the growth, health and product quality of Atlantic salmon.
19 July 2006 | Updated 12 January 2012
The research partnership is developing a selective breeding program for Tasmania’s Atlantic salmon farming industry, which is valued at A$170 million per year. The partnership will deliver:
tens of thousands of pedigreed Atlantic salmon with performance records and estimates of their genetic values for key commercial traits
systems for capturing, storing and processing hundreds of thousands of pedigree and performance measurements
workplans, tools and protocols for tagging, genotyping and performance measurement.
The selective breeding program is using targeted matings to concentrate the following key performance traits in
’s Atlantic salmon stocks.
- late maturation
- resistance to amoebic gill disease
- carcase quality.
Three age groups of fish are being grown simultaneously and about 150 salmon families (4000−5000 pedigreed individuals) are being produced each year.
The three-year breeding and selection cycle includes spawning, tagging and DNA fingerprinting, monitoring procedures in freshwater and seawater, and parent selection.
The salmon are weighed, measured and monitored to identify those with the best growth rates and the incidence of amoebic gill disease (AGD).
AGD occurs when a microscopic amoeba attaches to the gills. Infected salmon are safe to eat, but lose condition and experience slower growth. AGD costs the industry an estimated A$15 million annually in treatment and lost productivity.
Carcase quality will be assessed when the salmon are harvested each spring. The aim is to find the fish that yield the most meat for their size, with a deep red flesh colour and an ideal oil and omega-3 content.
The project is also developing instruments and programs for data capture, storage and analysis. Each year the performance of all the fish will be analysed to calculate ‘estimated breeding values’ for the key performance traits.
The anlaysis examines the performance of individuals, siblings, parents and more distant relatives to determine which fish to use to breed the next generation. An economic weighting is given to each selection trait that helps to achieve the best overall outcome for growers.
The project is a partnership between CSIRO’s Food Futures Flagship and Salmon Enterprises of Tasmania (Saltas). Saltas produces approximately 50 per cent of seed-stock for the Tasmanian Atlantic salmon industry.
The salmon are spawned from Saltas broodstock and are hatched and raised to smolt stage (one year old) at the Saltas hatchery at Wayatinah in
’s Central Highlands. Smolt are then transferred to sea cages at the Tassal Group Ltd marine farm were they are raised for a further 18 months until harvest size.
The project is expected to bring A$20 million in benefits when the first progeny are harvested in 2009–10. Subsequent benefits will be repeated in waves, with ten per cent gains in performance every three-year generation.
Improved growth rates are expected to yield the greatest gains. An expected ten per cent improvement in growth equates to production efficiencies of A$17 million a generation.
The research is being carried out by scientists from CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research.
Find out more about our work in Breed engineering.