Newfoundland gene study to add ‘heat- resistant’ fish to altered-species list

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Improved vaccines and stronger Atlantic salmon for eastern Canadian fish-farmers is the goal of a new Memorial University genomics project.

Around CAD3.5 million in federal and provincial money are behind a drive launched this week to find ways to keep salmon healthy and free from pathogens when ocean temperatures rise.

Sudden rises in temperature claim the lives of many thousands of salmon each year and cost salmon businesses millions of dollars in lost revenue and invested grow-out expense.

Funding from federal regional fund
The lion’s share of the funding will come from a federal regional fund, one of six nationwide. The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency is investing CAD2.9m from the Atlantic Innovation Fund (AIF). The provincial government is investing CAD500,000.

Other funding is understood to have come from aquaculture companies and national academic partners. Total costs are said to be CAD4.4m.

Genetically modified salmon already in market
Canadians have already eaten genetically modified salmon, according to Intrexon, ‘a leader in the engineering and industrialization of biology to improve the quality of life and health of the planet’, according to a company press release.

Its business, the NASDAQ-listed AquaBounty Technologies, Inc., “recently achieved a major milestone with the first sales of (its trademark) eco-friendly AquAdvantage Salmon in Canada.”

Intrexon says it expects an “accelerated” rollout of AquAdvantage salmon production. The fish now has approval from regulator, Health Canada, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and around “five tons of fresh (trademark) AquAdvantage Salmon fillets at market price” have been sold to customers in Canada, an AquaBounty communique says. Company researchers are “focused on enhancing productivity in the aquaculture market”.

Will increase production capacity
AquaBounty, based in Maynard, Massachusetts, said it “recognized $53,000 of revenue on sales of AquAdvantage Salmon fillets” in its second quarter results.

Company chief executive Ronald Stotish, said first-ever sales of eco-friendly AquAdvantage Salmon was a milestone. “Discussions with potential buyers clearly demonstrate that customers want our fish, and we look forward to increasing our production capacity to meet demand.”

According to Wikipedia, AquAdvantage salmon have “a growth hormone-regulating gene from a Pacific Chinook salmon” and “a promoter from an ocean pout” added to the Atlantic salmon’s 40,000 genes. “This gene enables it to grow year-round instead of only during spring and summer.”

AquaBounty Canada Inc. reportedly already has a larval-egg production permit on Prince Edward Island. Approval came in mid-June for an enclosed facility in Rollo Bay West that will produce 250 tons of genetically-modified salmon a year, according to The Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water.