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The knowledge on the salmon genome is essential to boost salmon farming industry development. (Photo Credit: ICSASG/FIS)

Atlantic salmon genome sequenced

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014, 03:30 (GMT + 9)

The whole genome sequence of the Atlantic salmon has successfully been mapped, a breakthrough that should accelerate selective breeding programmes for farmed salmon and reduce the aquaculture industry’s impact on wild salmon stocks.

This achievement has been made by an international consortium of scientists and funding bodies — including Genome British Columbia — based in Norway, Canada and Chile, who spent four-and-a-half years and CAD 10 million (EUR 6.7 million) to map the entire DNA sequence of about 3 billion characters, essentially the genetic instruction set required to grow and operate an Atlantic salmon.

The International Cooperation to Sequence the Atlantic Salmon Genome (ICSASG) made the announcement in the framework of the International Conference on Integrative Salmonid Biology (ICISB) being held this week in Vancouver.

ICSASG pointed out that this reference genome will provide crucial information to fish managers to improve the production and sustainability of aquaculture operations, and address challenges around conservation of wild stocks, preservation of at-risk fish populations and environmental sustainability.

"A better scientific understanding of this species and its genome is a critical step towards improving the growth and management of global fisheries and aquaculture," says Dr. Alan Winter, Genome British Columbia President & CEO. 

"Additionally, the level of international collaboration seen in this project is a testament to the importance of global coordination to address challenges too big for any one country individually," Winter added.

Salmonids are an important piece of the economic and social fabric of communities on British Columbia's coastline and many other countries including Norway and Chile. Seafood is the province's largest agri-food export, contributing CAD 870 million (EUR 584.6 million) of the province's total agri-food exports of CAD 2,500 million (EUR 1,680 million).

Understanding and targeting heritable traits in the genome will help speed breeding programmes for Atlantic salmon aimed at improving resistance to viruses and sea lice, problems that have created considerable controversy for the aquaculture industry in BC and in Norway, according to Steinar Bergseth, Chair of the International Steering Committee for the consortium of scientists.

“Eliminating the sea lice problem in net pens would eliminate the risk of transfer between wild and farmed salmon,” he explained.

Scientists can now begin use the genome to identify families of Atlantic salmon that resist other pathogens, grow faster or even synthesize omega-3 fatty acids on a plant-based diet, reducing the amount of wild fish that is required to feed farmed fish, Bergseth said.


 
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