Collaboration with Roslin Institute and Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre.
Productive and sustainable aquaculture systems in the UK require a reliable supply of high quality stock. Well managed programmes of domestication and selective breeding have major potential for cumulative gains in production, including tackling infectious disease problems. However, unlike the majority of terrestrial livestock and plant agriculture, the level of technology used for aquatic species breeding and production is very wide-ranging. This ranges from the use of high-tech selective breeding programmes incorporating genomic tools (e.g. Atlantic salmon), to reliance on wild seed (e.g. most shellfish and crustaceans). As such, a key research challenge for UK aquaculture, as defined at the outset of the BBSRC-NERC UK Aquaculture initiative, is ‘Breeding and genetic approaches for stock enhancement’. Barriers to applying such approaches in UK commercial aquaculture include knowledge gaps in the genetic and epigenetic basis of economically important traits, as well as lack of molecular tools and quantitative genetics expertise applied to aquaculture selective breeding. This consortium aims will establish a leading group focussed on aquaculture genetics and breeding, enabling sector-specific step improvements in stock enhancement. The consortium will develop and apply genomic technologies to underpin these improvements, and will work alongside commercial partners to deliver the step changes in problem-driven exemplar projects across shellfish, crustaceans and finfish. Specifically we will advance domestication and /or genetic improvement in four species of commercial importance or potential for UK aquaculture; European lobster, European oyster, Lumpfish and Atlantic salmon. We will also use the genomic technology to reduce the impact of aquaculture on the environment, and to assist restocking efforts for native species. The consortium will engage with a broad range of societal stakeholders in aquaculture genetics, gauging public opinion and concern regarding aquaculture breeding, in particular focussing on future uses of advanced genetic technology. Finally, the consortium will help address skill gaps in key areas defined by the ARCH-UK network, including quantitative genetics, bioinformatics and gene editing, by offering training opportunities and knowledge transfer across the sectors.