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Development of sustainable aquaculture of arctic charr.

Objective

The project focuses on the development of aquaculture of the salmonid fish arctic charr (Salvelinis alpinus). Aquaculture of arctic charr is in its initial stages but is clearly growing in Europe. This trend is also apparent in Canada. In order to ensure profitability and competitiveness, this new industry is in great need of organized research and developmental work.
In subtask A1 five microsatellite primers have been developed that provide good resolution in detecting stock specific genetic variation. This is a significant milestone for the project. In subtask A2 genetic samples have been provided from a number of wild arctic charr populations in Iceland and Scotland. Biological and physical data were obtained in the respective freshwater systems.

In subtask B 1, data from Iceland and Sweden have been organized for future analysis. In B2 significant variation in performance genes, has been detected in two Icelandic and one Swedish aquaculture stock of arctic charr. In subtask B3 gene-environment rearing experiments are ongoing in Iceland and Sweden, involving several strains of arctic charr. The environment in these experiments differs primarily with regard to temperature. Performance parameters such as growth patterns, sexual maturity, oxygen consumption and food intake are estimated regularly. In subtask B4 experiments have been ongoing linking variation in early development performance, mainly metabolic rate, with later performance. Studies to identify differential gene expression in high- and low metabolic rate charr are ongoing and have already returned preliminary results.

In general, the project is progressing as planned. The main achievement of the project at this stage is the development of microsatellite primers. Secondly, the detection of polymorphism in performance genes in subtask B2 is of great importance for the future development of breeding techniques for this species. The experimental work in subtask B4 has returned very important information about variation in early development and quantified metabolic rate differences, which are being examined genetically using novel techniques.
The AQUACHARR project is young, started in December 1996, and no direct results can be published at this stage. In this paper I will introduce the main objectives of the project, describe the work and overview present state of progress and achievements.

In addition to the partners listed, parts of the work are subcontracted to: The Icelandic Marine Research Institute, The Icelandic Agricultural Research Institute, and the aquaculture breeding company 'Stofnfiskur' ltd.

The primary objective of the project is to provide a sound, multidisciplinary scientific and technological basis for the controlled development of an environmentally friendly and competitive aquaculture of the salmonid fish Arctic charr, Salvelinus alpinus, in Europe. To do this we aim to:

- develop and test microsatellite probes as a tool to combat the pressing problem of genetic mixing of cultured and wild stocks

- find molecular markers for economically important traits to improve the efficiency of breeding programs for this species

- identify and quantify biological variability in economically important traits and their genetic and environmental origin

The project is divided into two main tasks which are divided into several subtasks:

Objective of Task A:

The objective of task A is to develop and enhance the application of techniques for genetically characterizing domesticated stocks of arcdc charr as well as wild populations in areas of Europe of high potential risk of genetic mixing, and/or of high conservation or economic value. This is essential in the development and implementation of European regulations concerning confinement of domesticated stocks.

Objective of Task B: The objective is to develop a dynamic strategy for the genetic improvement of Arctic charr used in European aquaculture using traditional quantitative genetics as well as the latest developmental and molecular techniques. Using information available from breeding programmes in Sweden and Iceland, together with results emerging from the current proposal, a European breeding plan for Arctic charr will be formulated

Task A is divided into two subtasks. In sub-task A1 microsatellite primers are developed for the individual stock identification of Arctic charr. In subtask A2 selected wild and domesdc populations of arctic charr in Iceland, Scotland, Ireland and Sweden are sampled and genetically analysed based on the findings in subtask A1. This sampling also involved documentation on basic phenotypic characters of the charr as well as other biological, chemical and physical properties of their environment.
Task B is divided into five subtasks. In subtask B1 available data from arctic charr breeding programmes in Iceland and Sweden will be analysed for the potential effects of major genes on performance characters. In subtask B2 genetic probes (PCR) are designed to detect single gene polymorphism in genes potentially related to performance in aquaculture strains of arctic charr. In subtask B3 long term rearing experiments are conducted on families and stocks of arctic charr to examine genetic and environmental interactions. In these experiments charr are reared under different environmental conditions in order to determine if families and stocks respond differently to varying rearing conditions. In subtask B4 rearing experiments are conducted to correlate embryonic performance features, primarily variable metabolic rates, to later growth and performance in culture. Specifically, it is examined what kind of genes are expressed in relation to this performance variation. In subtask B5, which takes place in the last year of the project, all the available information will be synthesized and an overall proposal for development and breeding of cultured arctic charr in Europe formulated.

Funding Scheme

CSC - Cost-sharing contracts

Coordinator

UNIVERSITY OF ICELAND
Address
12,Grensasvegur 12
0108 Reykjavik
Iceland

Participants (4)

Holalax Ltd.
Iceland
Address
Holar Hjaltadalur
551 Saudarkrokur
NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF IRELAND, GALWAY
Ireland
Address
University Road
90 Galway
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Sweden
Address
Skogshoegskolan
901 83 Umea
UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW
United Kingdom
Address
Graham Kerr Building
G12 8QQ Glasgow