International collaboration sequences salmon genome

Genome will provide information to fish managers to improve production and sustainability of aquaculture operations and conservation of wild stocks.

The International Cooperation to Sequence the Atlantic Salmon Genome (ICSASG) announced June 10 the completion of a fully mapped and openly accessible salmon genome. 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. This breakthrough was announced at the International Conference on Integrative Salmonid Biology (ICISB) being held in Vancouver, B.C., this week.

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, an announcement from Genome British Columbia said. High-value species such as salmon make a significant economic contribution to the economy. Canada's Atlantic salmon-related aquaculture revenues exceed $600 million annually.

Salmonids are also a key species for research and while some salmon genetic information is known, many fundamental questions have remained: a fully assembled reference sequence available for researchers worldwide will have a major impact on revealing information about salmon and other salmonids, such as rainbow trout and Pacific salmon.

Viruses and pathogens are a challenging hazard to livelihoods and economies dependent on salmon and this sequence provides real support to improve the production of salmonids in a sustainable way, an announcement said. Other benefits of the salmon sequence include applications for food security and traceability and broodstock selection for commercially important traits. Healthier food, more environmentally sound fish farming and better interactions with wild salmon are all positive outcomes from this research.

"Knowledge of the whole genome makes it possible to see how genes interact with each other, and examine the exact gene that governs a certain trait such as resistance against a particular disease," said Dr. Steinar Bergseth, chair of the international steering committee for ICSASG. "The development of vaccines and targeted treatment is much closer."

The international collaboration involves researchers, funding bodies and industry from Canada, Chile and Norway. The successful completion of the salmon genome provides a basis for continued partnerships between these and other countries involved in research and industrial development of salmonids.

"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," added Dr. Alan Winter, president and chief executive officer of Genome BC.

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