The Atlantic Veterinary College at the University of P.E.I., is participating in a pan-Atlantic research initiative to improve the health and welfare of cultured Atlantic salmon using genomic and other biotechnologies.
The project will equip the Atlantic salmon aquaculture industry with the information and tools needed to develop more disease-resistant broodstock and improved vaccines, which is expected to result in a more robust industry. U.P.E.I. is working with Memorial University, which is the lead research institution for the project.
The multi-year project recently received $2.99 million in funding from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, as well as $500,000 in funding from the Newfoundland and Labrador government.
These investments will enable the research team to work with Atlantic Canadian industry and academic partners to mitigate the impact of climate-related challenges on salmon aquaculture. The project will focus on the predicted effects of warming coastal waters and improve methods for protecting salmon from pathogens that can lead to diseases, which can have significant negative economic impacts on the industry.
“The global demand for healthy and sustainable protein sources continues to grow,” says Dr. Mark Fast, associate professor at the AVC and a collaborator on this project. “The Atlantic salmon farming industry, in Canada and globally, continues to expand and adjust to fill this demand.”
Faced with global climate change and the threat of more intensive summer and winter seasons, Fast says this collaborative research grant will determine the underpinnings of Atlantic salmon’s ability to grow and thrive at higher temperatures, providing industry with genetic markers/tests so it can select and produce salmon more suited to this changing ocean environment.
“This research is also important for identifying the genetic links between temperature changes, immunity and disease in salmon,” Fast says. “These links should provide information on how to develop more effective vaccines and reduce antibiotic use, again in the interest of enhancing the industry’s ability to produce a healthier, cheaper and more environmentally-sustainable salmon.”
Fast says the results of this project will be Atlantic Canadian fish farmers expanding their workforce and revenue, having more disease-resistant broodstock, and new scientific tools to improve fish health.