Scottish Sea Farms is set to deliver its first eggs bred from salmon grown at its own marine farms in Scotland, a key milestone in its collaboration with AquaGen.
“Ultimately, we’re seeking to match the right stock to the right conditions in order to maximize fish welfare as climate conditions continue to change, and with it, the marine environment. We’re acting now to help ensure future stocks can withstand those changes,” said Scottish Sea Farms head of fish welfare, Ralph Bickerdike.
The company aims to maximize fish welfare at sea by improving overall robustness to Scottish marine conditions and increasing resistance to the health challenges that the changing environment can give rise to, in particular, gill health which is now thought to be one of the biggest challenges facing farmed salmon globally. Determining which genetic selection might offer the greatest resistance is an integral element of the breeding program.
“Stock selection is an ongoing process. Just as the climate continues to change, so too does the best breeding to withstand those changes,” said AquaGen Scotland managing director, Andrew Reeve. “Having selected the best-performing fish from Scottish Sea Farms marine farms, we’re now able to apply the latest technologies and approaches to identify the key traits that have helped these superior grade fish continue to thrive in the Scottish marine environment.”
While this work is at an early stage, the partners hope to have robust genomic data as soon as three years from now, a timescale that could be shortened further with knowledge exchange from Scottish Sea Farms’ other research projects in this area. These include a collaboration with the University of Aberdeen, BioMar, Marine Scotland Science and the Sustainable Aquaculture Innovation Centre to increase understanding of how seasonality and location influence gill health and how farmed salmon respond to these challenges.
Similarly, it is intended that the insights into breeding for improved resistance to gill health challenges will be shared with other producers of farmed salmon, both here in Scotland and further afield. Before then, the first eggs bred from Scottish Sea Farms grown salmon will be delivered into Barcaldine Hatchery in early 2022 and are scheduled to be transferred to the company’s marine farms around Scotland’s west coast and Northern Isles from Q1 2023.