Aquaculture plays a significant role in the Canadian economy, comprising 14 per cent of total Canadian fisheries production and 33 per cent of its value. In Atlantic salmon aquaculture, it is not uncommon for fish to be infected with multiple pathogens, including sea lice, bacteria and viruses. This can cause severe economic losses for aquaculture farmers and the industry.
The scientific team, led by Dr. Matthew Rise of Memorial University of Newfoundland, Dr. Richard Taylor of Cargill Innovation Centre, and Dr. Mark Fast of the University of Prince Edward Island, is using functional genomics tools to identify co-infection biomarkers (i.e., genes that respond to co-infection). EWOS/Cargill will use this information to develop therapeutic diets that reduce salmon disease and mortality due to co-infection. The project builds upon earlier work by the partners, funded through Genome Canada’s Genomic Applications Partnership Program, focused on individual pathogens.
The integrated pathogen management system that results from this research will benefit the broader Canadian salmon industry. Its uptake and application could reduce co-infection losses by as much as 20 per cent overall and by as much as 50 per cent for some diseases. This could translate into savings of up to $57 million annually for the Canadian aquaculture industry. Reduced disease will also enhance consumer acceptance of farmed salmon products, decrease the use of chemical treatments, and minimize the risk of transmitting pathogens to wild salmon populations.