Genetics and genomics are powerful biological tools for studying fish and fish populations. Just as genetic techniques are used in agriculture to select for and breed crops or animals with desired traits, these tools can be used in aquaculture. Genetic selection in aquaculture may focus on desirable traits, such as improved growth rate, disease resistance, feed conversion, or product quality. In addition to increasing profitability, farmed fish with these traits can increase resource efficiency and environmental sustainability of aquaculture operations by producing less waste, posing less of a disease risk, and using feed more efficiently. Genomics allows for broader genome-wide studies, better detection capabilities and cost effectiveness.
Specifically, genetics and genomics techniques may be used to:
- Determine what genes and traits are important for fish growth and development
- Inform how these traits are passed from parent to offspring
- Improve understanding and of genetic variation in farmed fish
- Aid in the selection of broodstock with a desirable genetic makeup
- Allow for selective breeding of individuals with specific desired traits
Addressing the Risk of Escapes
Genetics and genomics are being used to:
- Develop baselines for global and local genetic diversity within and among wild populations
- Monitor the genetic diversity and profile of both wild and captive populations
- Model the influence escaped fish may have on the genetic profile and fitness of the wild population
NOAA Genetics Research
The SWFSC's Genetics, Physiology & Aquaculture program has been using genetics and genomics to study the commerially relevant aquaculture species California yellowtail. Research areas include examining the genetic diversity of yellowtail to develop a baseline of genetic variability, evaluating traits for broodstock selection, and investigating how the genetics and physiology of aquaculture-reared fish relate to health and fitness.
The OMEGA Model
The Offshore Mariculture Escapes Genetic Assessment (OMEGA) Model was developed to address the genetic and ecological effects of escaped fish on wild fish of the same species. It is currently being used to inform permitting decisions by coastal managers.