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 surrounding conservation of wild stocks, preservation of at-risk fish populations and environmental sustainability.
This breakthrough was announced last week at the International Conference on Integrative Salmonid Biology in Vancouver, B.C.
Salmonids are an important piece of the economic and social fabric of communities in Canada, Norway and Chile, among others, an announcement from Genome British Columbia said.
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 the livelihoods and economies that depend 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, the announcement added.
"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 industries from Canada, Chile and Norway. The successful completion of the salmon genome provides a basis for continued partnerships among 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.
The aquaculture industries need to produce healthy food in a sustainable and efficient manner to be in line with consumer demands, and "the knowledge of the sequence will certainly give us a long-awaited tool to achieve this," Petter Arnesen, breeding director at Marine Harvest in Norway, said.
Worldwide, commercial salmon production exceeds 1 billion lb. annually, with about 70% coming from aquaculture salmon farms. In addition to being an important economic resource, salmon and other salmonid species such as trout are considered "sentinel species" for monitoring the waters and are important markers for ecotoxicology studies.
ICSASG was formed in 2009 as a partnership among Genome BC, the Chilean Economic Development Agency, InnovaChile, the Norwegian Research Council and the Norwegian Fishery & Aquaculture Industry Research Fund.
ICSASG brings together expert biologists who have studied salmonids with commercial and government agencies interested in funding further research.