Scientific breakthrough: International collaboration has sequenced the Atlantic salmon genome
Vancouver, BC, June 10, 2014 – Today the International Cooperation to Sequence the Atlantic SalmonGenome (ICSASG) announced completion of a fully mapped and openly accessible salmon genome. Thisreference genome will provide crucial information to fish managers to improve the production andsustainability of aquaculture operations, and address challenges around conservation of wild stocks,preservation of at-risk fish populations and environmental sustainability. This breakthrough was announced atthe International Conference on Integrative Salmonid Biology (ICISB) being held in Vancouver this week.
Salmonids are an important piece of the economic and social fabric of communities on BC’s coastline andmany other countries including Norway and Chile. The fisheries and aquaculture sector is one of theeconomic engines of BC: seafood is the province’s largest agri-food export, contributing $870 million of theprovince’s total agri-food exports of $2.5 billion1. High value species such as salmon make a significanteconomic contribution to the economy. Canada’s Atlantic salmon related aquaculture revenues exceed $600million annually2 and BC is the only province with a commercial salmon fishery.
Salmonids are also a key species for research and while some salmon genetic information is known, manyfundamental questions have remained: a fully assembled reference sequence available for researchersworldwide will have a major impact on revealing information about salmon and other salmonids, such asrainbow trout and Pacific salmon.
Viruses and pathogens are a challenging hazard to livelihoods and economies dependent on salmon andthis sequence provides real support to improve the production of salmonids in a sustainable way. Otherbenefits of the salmon sequence include applications for food security and traceability and broodstockselection for commercially important traits. Healthier food, more environmentally sound fish farming and betterinteractions 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 examinethe exact gene that governs a certain trait such as resistance against a particular disease,” says Dr. SteinarBergseth, Chair of the International Steering Committee for the ICSASG. “The development of vaccines andtargeted 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 partnershipsbetween 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 thegrowth and management of global fisheries and aquaculture,” says Dr. Alan Winter, President &CEO ofGenome BC. “Additionally, the level of international collaboration seen in this project is a testament to theimportance of global coordination to address challenges too big for any one country individually.”
“These results open a wide variety of possibilities for applied research and innovative products and servicesfor the salmon industry in Chile,” says Dr. Marcela Angulo, Head of the Technological Capabilities Departmentat Chilean Economic Development Agency, Corfo. “It is a valuable contribution towards a more sustainableaquaculture.”
The aquaculture industries need to produce healthy food in a sustainable and efficient manner to be in linewith the consumer demands. “The knowledge of the sequence will certainly give us a long awaited tool toachieve this” says Petter Arnesen, Breeding Director of Marine Harvest, Norway.
1 2012 Export Highlights British Columbia Agrifoods, British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture, revised February2014, www.agf.gov.bc.ca/stats/Export/2012BCAgrifoodsExportHighlights.pdf