A Better Breed of Fish

A Better Breed of Fish


Aquaculture is a big industry in Canada.
In fact, Canada is one of the world’s largest producers of salmon, and one
of the major challenges we face is producing locally derived salmon
that are essentially free of antibiotics and any other kind
of contaminants. Our partnership with Yellow Island really spawned
from the idea that the company itself was generally interested in
research and development since day one and they’ve been
on the forefront of leading the efforts to increase the yield
and profitability of an organic fish farm. They rear chinook salmon,
which are local to the west coast of Canada, as
opposed to most fish farms, which raise Atlantic salmon, which are
mostly derived from the east coast. We wanted to be able to produce a
uniquely high quality product with no real impact on the wild animals.
We had been following what was a normal practice at the time
and treating our animals with antibiotics whenever they got
any evidence of disease. So what we did basically was
we went to the research groups and we said, “What can
we do about this?” and what their basic idea was was
that we needed to study the natural disease resistance
characteristics of the organisms and find out how they normally
protected themselves against disease. We’re very interested in studying
what happens in the wild and infusing Mother Nature back into
the process of aquaculture. We try to ask the question,
“What aspects of their genetic quality allow them to be more fit,
more survivorship, more growth?” Females often increase the
genetic quality of their offspring by choosing certain males
over others, and so although it seems like an esoteric topic,
we’re going to infuse this into the aquaculture industry to increase
the genetic quality of the offspring we produce for fish farms and
essentially increase the yield and quality of the meat for
the consumer. Funding from NSERC was critical
in order for us to turn academic thinking into action. That is to
say, it allowed us to work closely with our industrial partner and
also maintain our basic science research program. We have a team
of about nine to 10 professors and a team of about 20 graduate
students over the years that have done research at this facility. Some
of us specialize in genetics, some of us specialize in immunology,
while others specialize more in the aquaculture industry. Our output in terms of research
has put us on a par with all the major universities in the
Pacific Northwest. We were the first to start organic
production and develop the first set of organic standards
and we are the last of the family-owned fish farms in B.C.

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