Atlantic Salmon Summary
Economically Important Species
The proposed Genomics Research on Atlantic Salmon Project (GRASP) is a major initiative that falls under the category of fisheries; one of the five areas identified by Genome Canada as having strategic importance for Canada and one in which we should be striving to be a world leader. GRASP brings together universities, government agencies, research institutes, and industry from BC and across Canada and will foster participation in major international genomics research programs being carried out in Ireland and Norway.
The research to be conducted through GRASP takes advantage of, and builds on, specialized technologies that already exist in British Columbia, including BAC contig mapping, large-scale sequencing, genotyping, functional genomics, proteomics, and bioinformatics. GRASP offers the possibility of identifying large numbers of genes and proteins related to disease resistance, reproduction, growth, tolerance to physical factors, product quality, and nutrition. This knowledge will accelerate investment in salmonid fish health, vaccine development, and an array of fisheries and aquaculture related industries.
Atlantic salmon is the species of choice for this genomics project, in part because of its economic importance. Greater than 80% of the farmed salmon in British Columbia are Atlantic salmon and worldwide it has become the industry standard. There is great potential for the expansion of salmonid aquaculture facilities in British Columbia and for other companies related to fish farming. It is important to note, however, that genomic information gained from Atlantic salmon will be applicable to other salmonid species, in particular Pacific salmonids. This information will be useful for the conservation and enhancement of wild stocks, for commercial harvesting, and maintaining the lucrative sports fishery.
There are also very important fundamental scientific questions to be asked concerning salmonid genomes. The ancestor of all extant salmonids underwent recent genome duplication and these species may be considered pseudo-tetraploid. How a genome reorganizes itself to cope with duplicated chromosomes and the importance of gene duplications for evolution and adaptation are long standing issues that remain unresolved. In addition, the mechanism of sex determination in salmonids is a mystery. Information about genes involved in sex control will have important pragmatic applications in developing monosex aquaculture stocks that will reduce the impact of aquaculture on wild stocks. There are therefore, both important scientific and economic reasons for conducting genomic research on Atlantic salmon.