Aquaculture genetics consortium set to tackle industry challenges

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By Milthon Lujan

UK.- A major research collaboration between academic and industry scientists aims to boost selective breeding of stocks of vital UK aquaculture species.

The £1.7 million AquaLeap initiative will focus on four key species that have substantial economic and environmental importance for the UK – the European lobster, European flat oyster, lumpfish and Atlantic salmon.

Researchers will work closely with industry partners to identify sustainable solutions to current challenges facing aquaculture production, including significant diseases.

The interdisciplinary consortium is led by The Roslin Institute in partnership with the Universities of Aberdeen, Exeter and Stirling, and the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas). The commercial partners are Hendrix Genetics BV, Xelect Ltd, The National Lobster Hatchery, Tethys Oysters Ltd., and Otter Ferry SeaFish Ltd.

Developing genomic tools and methods

Teams will use cutting-edge genetic sequencing technologies to identify DNA markers that are linked to economically important traits, such as disease resistance or growth rate. This information will help develop and apply new tools to improve breeding programmes for these valuable species.

Experts will also develop gene-editing techniques to understand genes controlling resistance to diseases, and explore possibilities of using this technology to speed up stock improvement.

“Well-managed programmes of domestication and breeding have a large and mostly untapped potential for improvement in aquaculture production. AquaLeap will focus on developing and applying genomic tools to selective breeding of several important aquaculture species” says Professor Ross Houston, The Roslin Institute

Training and dissemination

The scientific programme is complemented by a series of training, dissemination and public engagement activities, including addressing skills gaps identified by the ARCH-UK network.

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One such event is a one-day conference planned at The Roslin Institute on Monday 20th May 2019 focussed on application of genetic technologies for improvement of finfish and shellfish.

AquaLeap is funded by the UK Government’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Natural Environment Research Council under their targeted UK Aquaculture Initiative, with additional co-funding from the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC).

Source: The University of Edinburgh

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