New Zealand genetics expertise harnessed for Icelandic salmon health

Dr Jonas Jonasson from Storfnfiskur with John McEwan from AgResearch.

One of the world’s leading salmon egg producers is working with AgResearch to develop genomic selection in Atlantic salmon.

Icelandic company Stofnfiskur HF and AgResearch, New Zealand’s pastoral crown research institute, are working together to help increase the efficiency of the company’s salmon breeding systems, using modern genomic tools pioneered in sheep.

​Stofnfiskur’s high health status of their breeding stock in Iceland allows eggs to be exported to most salmon-producing countries throughout the world.

The company has been running a breeding program since 1991 based on imported Norwegian Atlantic salmon. AgResearch Animal Genomics team principal scientist John McEwan says that they are now aiming to select breeding stock on the basis of geneticmerit to increase production efficiency and resistance to common diseases and parasites, and to lower costs.

“AgResearch has previously developed genomic tools that can transform the future selection and breeding of sheep. These tools – including SNP chips – are now commercially available for breeders and researchers,” says Mr McEwan.

“At the end of last year a new project called Genomics for Production & Security was launched in New Zealand to build on this previous work and extend it to other species such as Atlantic salmon.

Stofnfiskur has been using AgResearch genotyping services to determine parentage and develop marker based tests for IPNV (infectious pancreatic necrosis viral disease) for many years.

“This work will take the collaboration to a new level.

“This is particularly exciting work because the techniques developed in this very structured breeding programme can be rapidly adopted in many other species farmed in New Zealand,” says Mr McEwan.

“Survival to market in Atlantic salmon farming is one of the most valuable traits in the breeding work. The aim is that we can develop genotyping methods to improve resistance towards the various diseases and parasites that have huge impacts on the industry worldwide.”