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Atlantic Aquaculture Needs Science-Based Investment

NEW BRUNSWICK, CANADA - Atlantic Canadians must invest more in science and technology - particularly regarding breeding and genomics, a Genomics Atlantic expert says.

With a need to triple the world's aquaculture production by 2030, a huge opportunity exists for Atlantic Canada, says the head of Genome Atlantic.

NB Business Journal quotes Steven Armstrong as saying: "The history of aquaculture and wild fishing industry is in the blood of many Atlantic Canadians. Genome Atlantic is a non-profit corporation which promotes genomic research in the Atlantic region.

Aquaculture is big business in Canada, currently valued at about one billion dollars (CAD) annually, with half of that figure coming from Atlantic Canada. The industry is expected to grow nationally by 13 per cent per year and be a three billion-dollar industry in 10 years without any additional investments to it.

"We see huge potential in Atlantic Canada for the industry," says Nell Halse, the vice-president of communications for Cooke Aquaculture.

She says the region has all the necessary ingredients – excellent research facilities, labs and knowledge-base.

Worldwide, fish consumption is split evenly between aquaculture and wild stock. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations estimates aquaculture production will need to triple by 2030 to keep up with rising demand and declining worldwide fish stocks.

Mr Armstrong says Atlantic Canadians are well positioned to become leaders in this field. "Marine and fish and aquaculture knowledge in this region is plentiful," he says.

But he says one of the things Atlantic Canadians need to do is "suppress the modesty gene", meaning that they need to be willing to go after larger projects and run them from Atlantic Canada and not just be willing to play a role in projects originating from larger cities, such as Toronto and Vancouver.

This also means actively showcasing our achievements and not being so modest about them.

"This is the Atlantic Canadian way, to do things more quietly," says Ms Halse. "We're still not that good at blowing our own horn."

To become better, Mr Armstrong says there is a need to introduce a genomics-based programme for broodstock development and disease management. This programme could increase the aquaculture growth rate to 25 per cent annually and would mean the Canadian aquaculture industry has the potential to hit CAD 7.5 billion in about 10 years.

That would represent a CAD 4.5-billion increase in terms of net market revenue while the investment would cost $300 million, said Mr Armstrong.

"The trajectory of growth of aquaculture is extraordinary," he says, "but only if you do the science and technology investment on the front end."

Mr Armstrong says this investment is necessary to be competitive reports NB Business Journal.

"To be competitive in aquaculture, you've got to have a science-based programme. And more specifically, you've got to have a genomics-based programme," he says.

This means being able to identify genetic markers associated with traits of interest, such as disease-resistance and tolerance to temperature change. By using the markers to create a genetically superior broodstock, the fish grow faster and are healthier, production times and costs decrease for the firms which allow them to be more competitive.

the Fish Site Editor

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