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Genetics roadmap to develop more resilient farmed fish

World experts gathered at The Roslin Institute for a two-day workshop organised by WorldFish to help shape the future of tilapia selective breeding and genetic improvement.

Several fish viewed from above

Based on a roadmap developed at the workshop held at Roslin, WorldFish will embark on new research to create more resilient fish with characteristics such as disease resistance and more effective feed utilization. The research will use advanced techniques such as genomic selection to introduce these characteristics into its improved tilapia strains.

WorldFish is an international, nonprofit research organization that harnesses the potential of fisheries and aquaculture to reduce hunger and poverty. Since 1988, it has used selective breeding to develop and manage the fast-growing Genetically Improved Farmed Tilapia (GIFT) strain. The strain has been disseminated to at least 16 countries, mostly in the developing world, and is grown by millions of small-scale fish farmers for food, income and nutrition across the world.

Tools that enable the selection of animals based on genetic markers will allow selection for characteristics that are otherwise difficult to measure such as resilience and feed efficiency. Genomic selection has enabled a step change in the rate of genetic improvement of terrestrial livestock and has the potential to do the same in fish.

Incorporating new genetic traits in GIFT​​​​​​​ will help fish farmers prepare for future challenges such as climate change and increasing evidence of disease risks. This will particularly benefit farmers in Africa and Asia, where tilapia is critical for food security yet farmers often have limited access to improved fish breeds suited to local conditions.

John BenzieProgramme Leader, Sustainable Aquaculture, WorldFish

Aquaculture production needs to increase by 40 percent by 2030 to meet global demands for fish. Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) is arguably the world’s most important food fish, and plays a key role in tackling rural poverty in developing countries. The innovations in genetic improvement mapped out in this workshop are an important step toward achieving these ambitious goals.

Ross HoustonGroup Leader at The Roslin Institute

Workshop attendees included experts from WorldFish’s Malaysian and Egyptian bases, The Roslin Institute, Swedish University of Life Sciences, Stirling University’s Institute of Aquaculture, Earlham Institute, Wageningen University and CIRAD.

The roadmap will feed into a strategy for the genetic improvement and dissemination of GIFT seed in Africa. It will be further developed at the Genetics Network meeting hosted by WorldFish at the World Aquaculture 2017 conference in Cape Town on 26–30 June.

Relevant links:

-       CGIAR Research Program on fish (FISH)

-       WorldFish sustainable aquaculture

For further detaills please contact Dr Ross Houston.