Review article highlights importance of genetics in sustainable growth of UK aquaculture

Tim Regan discusses the genetic improvement technologies in his new open access article.


In March 2021, a new review article appeared in the journal Reviews in Aquaculture based on collaborative research by the Universities of Edinburgh and Stirling as well as the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) and facilitated by Aquaculture Research Collaborative Hub UK (ARCH-UK). Tim Regan, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Roslin Institute, had this to say regarding his role in the project:

"I'm very excited to see this article in print, especially as it's my first first-author aquaculture publication. It was a great learning experience working with some excellent co-authors. We took a deep dive into literature, old and new, drawing on sources from academia, governments and industries to give a holistic description of UK aquaculture’s past, present and potential future. The UK's 31,000 kilometer fractal coastline, ranging from cold to warm temperate waters, presents many habitats suited to a range of aquaculture species. This highlights the potential for diversifying and expanding what is currently grown in UK waters. However, growth of UK aquaculture—which is behind global trends—will need to overcome several challenges (including climate change and disease); better integration of breeding technologies is crucial if this growth is to proceed in a sustainable fashion.

This graph shows UK production for capture fisheries and aquaculture; fisheries remain dominant but aquaculture grows quickly.

“It was really interesting to make comparisons between the UK and countries with similar aquaculture species sectors. This allowed us to highlight key areas which would benefit the most from better integration of breeding technologies. This is especially true for UK shellfish industries such as blue mussel and Pacific oyster farming, but even salmon and rainbow trout farming (which already employ highly advanced breeding tools) would benefit from domestic breeding programmes and less reliance on imported ova.

“This publication also comes at a very exciting time as UK and EU governments are reviewing the legislations for gene editing in farmed species. This is likely to lead to separate regulations for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and gene edited organisms (GEOs) where unlike GMOs, changes in the DNA of a GEO are often indistinguishable from changes that can occur during conventional breeding or in nature. In addition to increasing yields, embracing this change could rapidly transform our capabilities of responding to key issues such as disease, sterility and environmental impact."

This graph shows global production in aquaculture and capture fisheries over a period of 18 years; aquaculture rises rapidly.

The passion with which Tim talks about his work shines through in the article itself, which presents the project’s findings animal by animal and issue by issue. While projects of this size often focus on a single species, the work undertaken by collaborators at ARCH-UK, CEFAS, Stirling, and Edinburgh offers a wide and thorough inspection of UK aquaculture and is sure to prove useful to specialists in universities and the industry alike. Tim’s aquaculture research has led him beyond the UK and to its furthest points, including Guernsey in the Channel Islands, and his breadth of experience and expertise is an enormous asset; we at the Roslin Institute extend our full appreciation and commendation to Tim for his hard work together with his co-authors, and we look forward to putting the project’s findings to use in 2021 and beyond.

You can access this new article from the Wiley Online Library through this external link.

You can read about Tim's work in Guernsey through this news story on the subject.

You can learn more about Tim's research through his page in our People section.

You can access the ARCH-UK website through this external link.


This graph rates the level of breeding technologies applied to each of the four main aquaculture species in the UK and globally.