Office of the Premier / Agriculture, Fisheries and Aquaculture

Province supports research project in cod-aquaculture genomics (06/04/21)

NB 462

April 21, 2006

ST. ANDREWS (CNB) - The Province of New Brunswick is contributing $1 million to a genomics-research project designed to establish world leadership in cod aquaculture in Atlantic Canada.


The announcement was made today by Premier Bernard Lord and Agriculture, Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister David Alward. They were joined by Michael Dennis, president and CEO of Genome Atlantic; Huntsman Marine Science Centre associate executive director Gerhard Pohle; project co-lead Jane Symonds; David Aiken, representative of Fisheries and Oceans Canada's St. Andrews Biological Station; and Cooke Aquaculture director of communications Nell Halse.

The objective of the Atlantic Cod Genomics and Broodstock Development Project (CGP) is to develop a breeding program and a set of fundamental genomics tools that will be used to supply the developing Atlantic cod-aquaculture industry in Atlantic Canada with improved broodstock.

"This world-class, cutting-edge research project will establish New Brunswick and partners in Atlantic Canada as leaders in cod research and development," Lord said. "The results will support diversification of the salmon-farming sector in the region, leading to the creation of export revenues and more aquaculture-related jobs."

The $1 million-contribution from the provincial government is made in equal shares by the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation (NBIF) and the Total Development Fund, through the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Aquaculture.

"The provincial government clearly sees the economic potential of the world-class genomics research being conducted in Atlantic Canada," Alward said. "This project confirms the government's commitment to embracing innovation as a provincial priority."

"These very important investments from the NBIF and other partners enable valuable research to occur, and confirm our commitment to supporting the research happening right here in New Brunswick," said NBIF president and CEO Barrie Black.

The $18-million project is led by researchers at the Huntsman Marine Science Centre in St. Andrews and the Atlantic Genome Centre, in partnership with Genome Atlantic. About half of the project funds are to be invested in New Brunswick, with research and industry-partner activities in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, British Columbia and New Hampshire.

"Aquaculture is an important part of the economy in Atlantic Canada," Dennis said. "This project exemplifies the value that genomics research brings to the development of bio-science-based industries. Funding of this project will enhance the world-class genomics-research capacity in Atlantic Canada, and bring important breakthroughs in our growing aquaculture industry."

Aquaculture is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the economy, but it often relies on wild populations for broodstock. This project will identify and select elite broodstock through the application of selective breeding and genomics.

"This project will help determine the feasibility of using cod-selective breeding to produce fast-growing, healthy, high-quality cod," Symonds said.

"This announcement will build on the investment that Cooke Aquaculture has already made in cod farming in the Bay of Fundy," Halse said. "We are very pleased to have the full support of the Province of New Brunswick for the science, the entrepreneurial spirit and the innovation that our company and the many science partners bring to the table on this valuable collaborative project."

An extensive description of the project is available on the CGP website.


EDITOR'S NOTE: Background information concerning the CGP follows. MEDIA CONTACTS: Alain Bryar, communications, Agriculture, Fisheries and Aquaculture, 506-444-4218; Isabelle Losier, communications, New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, 506-452-7782; Jill Murrin, director of communications, Genome Atlantic, 902-421-5683.

Atlantic Cod Genomics and Broodstock Development Project

For many years the fishing industry in Atlantic Canada has been a major contributor to the region's cultural identity and economy. Declining fish stocks have brought many challenges to the industry and to those dependent on the revenue it generated. The subsequent growth of the salmon-aquaculture industry helped to revitalize the local economy, but the aquaculture industry in the Atlantic Region would benefit from diversification in order to sustain growth.

While diversifying to other finfish species such as Atlantic cod seems a logical step, aquaculture often relies for broodstock on wild populations which do not always respond well to culture conditions. Therefore, the aquaculture industry would benefit significantly from strategies that allow selection of Atlantic cod that perform well in terms of growth, resistance to disease and stress, and other economically important factors, while ultimately giving good product quality. The CGP, in partnership with the aquaculture industry, will identify and select these elite broodstock through the application of selective breeding and genomics.

The establishment of family-based selective breeding programs in New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador will ensure that local stocks can be used for the benefit of the provincial industries. Valuable traits for the aquaculture industry - growth, health, sexual maturation, stress tolerance, fillet quality and yield - will be measured and evaluated. In addition, the feasibility of incorporating specific traits in future breeding programs to ensure fast-growing, healthy, high-quality Atlantic cod will be determined.

In parallel, thousands of cod genes will be sequenced to look for differences in these genes between individual fish. This will allow the identification of a set of molecular markers, and to associate these markers with fish that perform well or badly under aquaculture conditions. A major factor limiting the directed improvement of cod broodstock is the scarcity of molecular tools currently available for this species. The CGP will dramatically increase the genomic resources available. Sequences generated will be used to identify variation in Canadian broodstock, to develop gene-linked markers for use in broodstock management, for comparative genomics, and to generate tools for expression analysis.

Researchers will work closely with CGP scientists and industry partners to examine ethical, environmental, economic, legal and social issues related to CGP research results. These researchers will examine ethical questions related to benefit sharing among research and commercialization partners, and other questions related to the status of elite Atlantic-cod broodstock under Canadian environmental law.

The $18-million CGP is led by researchers at the Huntsman Marine Science Centre in St. Andrews, and the Atlantic Genome Centre, in partnership with Genome Atlantic. Genome Atlantic was established in 2000 to finance and manage a regional program of technology infrastructure and research and development projects in genomics and proteomics in Atlantic Canada. One of six regional centres created by Genome Canada, it works with university, government and industrial partners in the regional-life-sciences cluster to conduct genomics research projects of socio-economic relevance to the Atlantic provinces.

For more information, please visit the CGP website.

Partners in the CGP are: