Aquaculture for all

Breeding programme draws to a close

Atlantic Salmon Trout Sea bass +10 more

A project that has improved the breeding of six key European fish species is coming to an end this month.

The EU-funded project Fishboost was established in 2014 with the goal of improving Europe's production of Atlantic salmon, common carp, European seabass, gilthead seabream, rainbow trout and turbot.

Fishboost aimed to improve European production of Atlantic salmon, common carp, seabass, gilthead seabream, rainbow trout and turbot

The Nofima-led project has involved scientists from 14 research institutions, 11 companies and an NGO, who have studied a wide range of traits and developed tools and technologies to contribute to more balanced, sustainable and long-term profitable breeding programmes.

“Fishboost has contributed to increased awareness in Europe that breeding is an important part of fish farming,” says Anna Sonesson, project coordinator.

For example, Fishboost’s industry forum at the Aquaculture Europe conference in 2018 was packed out, and Fishboost has held several highly attended workshops.

Fishboost is one of the last projects granted funding under EU’s seventh framework programme. High requirements were set for dissemination of findings and large geographical spread in the project. The partners in the project have agreed that only the parties that find a result or innovation own it, but that knowledge about the result must be shared.

The partners in the project have agreed with EU that only the parties that find a result or innovation own it, but that knowledge about the result must be shared.

“This means that no one else in the consortium is allowed to exploit your findings,” explains Sonesson.

Anna Sonesson, who is now winding up the Fishboost project after five years, is very pleased with the increased focus on breeding in the EU

© Joe Urrutia, Nofima.

The goal of Fishboost is to increase the efficiency and profitability of European aquaculture by enhancing all six species through advanced breeding methods.

Many breeding programmes in Europe have only selected for growth and other traits related to production efficiency. Fishboost has demonstrated the potential of also selecting for better disease resistance. For example, the partners have estimated the heritability of the main diseases for the species and mapped the genes behind them.

Fishboost has developed important tools such as gene maps and thousands of genomic markers, which show where on the DNA there is variation between animals. For example, genomic markers are used in genomic selection, which is more accurate than traditional breeding. In the Fishboost populations, accuracy using genomic selection was up to 22 per cent higher. But the method is expensive. The partners in Fishboost have developed ways to reduce the cost of using this method with the aim to increase the use of genomic selection in European breeding programmes.

Fishboost has also developed better selection and phenotyping methods to increase production efficiency. The Norwegian industrial partner SalmoBreed sees a potential for knowledge transfer between species:

“Much has been done to develop indirect methods for measuring feed utilization and production efficiency on several of the species in Fishboost. The research done on rainbow trout has a particularly high transfer value to salmon,” says Haavard Bakke, project manager at SalmoBreed.

Partners in Fishboost have worked to optimize the design and profitability of the breeding programme when new traits are included in the breeding objective, taking into account different technological levels, reproduction and biology in the species.

“I hope and believe that the industry will make use of this knowledge and that it will contribute to higher quality in existing breeding programmes and stimulate the creation of new ones,” says Sonesson.

Nofima and other research partners have written new applications to continue their work, and Nofima has already been awarded two new EU projects in this field.

The research has involved six species of farmed fish: European seabass, gilthead seabream, common carp, turbot, rainbow trout and Atlantic salmon.