Genetic Discovery Gives Welfare and Performance Benefits in Salmon

First application of genetic markers in marker-assisted selection in a commercial breeding program for fish
February 4, 2008

Genetic Discovery Gives Welfare and Performance Benefits in Salmon
Significant improvements in the welfare and commercial performance of Landcatch Atlantic Salmon are being achieved by the Scotland and Chile-based breeding company, Landcatch Natural Selection Ltd. (LNS). 
LNS is the first company to successfully locate a major gene which affects resistance to infectious pancreatic necrosis (IPN), a discovery which is now being used commercially to further improve IPN resistance in Landcatch Atlantic salmon.
Initially unveiled in headline terms at AquaNor 2007, as a ‘quantum leap’ in salmon breeding, full details of the breakthrough are now explained in a scientific paper carried in the latest edition of the internationally respected Journal ‘Genetics’. (Houston et al. (2008) Genetics 178:2) and available on the “Genetics” website.
The successful location of this important gene is the result of collaboration between geneticists at LNS and scientists at Roslin Institute and the Institute of Aquaculture, Stirling University, whose combined research was based on over 10 years of data and DNA samples collected from pedigree Landcatch Atlantic salmon.
One key discovery is that the identified gene accounts for over 20% of the total variation in IPN resistance within salmon families. The effect of the gene within some individual families, however, is much larger.  LNS have used this information to enhance their long-established selection procedures, enabling the company’s geneticists to identify fish with better levels of resistance to IPN, and other viruses, than ever before.
“This is the first time that genetic markers have been used in marker-assisted selection in a commercial breeding program for fish,” said Dr Alan Tinch, LNS breeding programme director.  “It’s an extremely valuable advance which is already delivering significant welfare improvements and enhanced commercial performance.”
LNS, based in Alloa, Scotland, manage the global breeding activities of salmon egg and smolt producers, Landcatch Scotland and Landcatch Chile. The company has an extensive database of salmon family records and for over ten years has been applying DNA fingerprinting to its breeding programme for individual identification and pedigree control. The addition of Marker-Assisted Selection to the programme means that broodstock choices are now able to be made according to both genotype and performance records, rather than on performance history alone. 
Further research is also being carried out by LNS to identify genes that affect other commercially-important traits and resistance to other diseases.
LNS is the only specialist aquaculture breeding company with its own production facilities in both the northern and southern hemispheres, a global structure which is responsible for the production of 110 million salmon eggs from locations in Scotland and Chile and is on target to supply 20% of the world’s salmon eggs by 2010.