Prince Edward Island (PEI)-based Atlantic Aqua Farms, North America’s largest blue mussel grower, will co-lead a $3.4 million research project to develop Canada’s first-ever genomics selective breeding program for triploid mussels. Triploid bivalves, such as oysters and mussels, offer superior meat quality, grow faster and are better at surviving storms.
The Triploid Mussel Program, a research and development project managed by Genome Atlantic, is one of eight projects funded through Genome Canada’s Genomic Applications Partnership Program (GAPP). The development of a breeding program for triploid mussels is an important milestone for Prince Edward Island’s blue mussel industry which is worth more than $60 million annually and the source of half of the mussels consumed in North America.
“Atlantic Aqua Farms is committed to contributing to the growth of the shellfish industry in a sustainable and climate-friendly way using innovation. Triploid mussels will help Atlantic Aqua Farms boost its mussel production by increasing per-acre grow-out efficiency, which will lead to expansion with a limited increase in carbon footprint,” said Tiago Hori, Atlantic Aqua Farm’s director of innovation and principal co-investigator for the project. Currently, Atlantic Aqua Farms has more than 4,500 acres of water leases.
“Genomics is what makes the prospect of boosting mussel production without expanding the water lease footprint realistic, and it’s another example of how important this area of science is to the future growth and sustainability of resource-based industries like aquaculture in Atlantic Canada,” said Steve Armstrong, president and CEO of Genome Atlantic.
Ramón Filgueira, a Dalhousie University expert in sustainable management of coastal aquaculture sites and the project’s second principal co-investigator, explains that another key component of the triploid breeding program will be to develop more climate-resilient mussels. “Triploids are known to struggle with heat stress and this tendency is potentially problematic in some areas of PEI where water temperatures are already on the high side for mussel cultivation and the warming trend is expected to continue with climate change. We believe that this issue can be mitigated using genomics to inform selective breeding in the triploid mussel seed.”
As part of its ten-year plan to develop the production of hatchery-grown mussel seed in PEI, Atlantic Aqua Farms is looking at developing a breeding program that will integrate genetic markers for temperature robustness in both triploids and diploids.
The Triploid Mussel Program is co-funded by Genome Canada in partnership with Genome Atlantic, Atlantic Aqua Farms, Dalhousie University, Research Nova Scotia, Mitacs, University of New Brunswick, University of Prince Edward Island, Université de Québec à Rimouski, the Government of Prince Edward Island, and Génome Québec.