Atlantic salmon being cultured in net pens at an aquaculture lease site off the coast of Maine
U.S. salmon production is constrained by lack of genetic improvement, disease, and low production efficiency. U.S. salmon producers are required to culture salmon of North American origin; however, no genetically improved native stocks are available. This requirement has necessitated the development of an applied Atlantic salmon research program to increase efficiency and sustainability of Atlantic salmon culture. Coldwater aquaculture production has great potential for expansion in the U.S., and American consumers readily accept salmon as a mainstream food item. Domestic production of Atlantic salmon is concentrated in Maine and Washington, and Maine is currently the leading producer of cultured salmon in the U.S. The research unit’s current primary research objective is genetic improvement of Atlantic salmon utilizing a family-based selective breeding program. Economically important traits and goals will be defined, offspring from selected families will be analyzed for commercially important production traits (e.g. growth, disease resistance, fillet yield and quality), genetic and phenotypic variation estimated, and genetic analyses will be utilized to develop improved North American Atlantic salmon lines for U.S. producers and consumers.
This project has four specific objectives: 1) obtain and compare performance of selected North American Atlantic salmon stocks for utilization in an applied selective breeding program; 2) estimate genotypic and phenotypic parameters for commercially important traits and develop a selection index; and 3) evaluate specific breeding aids such as polyploidy (triploid) and sex-reversal (all-female stocks) for benefits to Atlantic salmon aquaculture. Research accomplished during this project will result in the development of genetically improved North American Atlantic salmon stocks for release to U.S. producers and consumers, and provide information and solve problems limiting the profitability and sustainability of coldwater marine aquaculture in the U.S.