Denne laksen har vært avlet for at den skal ha god vekst, helse og slaktekvalitet, og oppta det røde pigmentet fra fôret. Uten avl hadde denne laksen trolig vært mindre rød, og betydelig dyrere på grunn av lang produksjonstid og mer svinn i produksjonen. Foto: Frank Gregersen/Nofima

Breeding and genetics

We do research and provide services for the development and operation of aquaculture breeding programs, where the use of genomic information plays a central part.

We offer

  • Services for the development and operation of breeding programmes for various species, including the use of genomic information adapted to each species and industry structure
  • Studies of the genetic effects of farming on wild fish populations
  • Knowledge about intellectual property rights for aquaculture resources
  • DNA identification of fish for the tracking of escaped salmon or studies of genetic affinity
  • Comparisons of diversity and performance between different genetic groups of fish
  • Estimation of the potential for breeding for different characteristics (breeding objectives), both in terms of biological potential and profitability from both a market economic and socio-economic perspective
  • Knowledge sharing about breeding through tailored education and counselling programmes
  • Comprehensive knowledge about and research on generic diversity, genomic information (bioinformatics and genetic resources) and epigenetics for species used in aquaculture
  • Genome editing in a research context

Some achievements

  • Norwegian farmed salmon grow twice as fast
    Since 1970, our researchers have contributed to enabling the Norwegian fish farming industry to produce salmon with better health, twice as fast growth, and with reduced feed consumption.
  • Developing selection methodologies for increased disease resistance
    Breeding is an efficient tool for reducing the prevalence of diseases in Norwegian aquaculture. Our researchers have helped develop phenotype tests and selection methods for increased disease resistance in many farmed species. Genomic selection is currently used as an efficient tool in this line of work. We work on diseases and parasites such as PD, CMS, salmon lice, and AGD in salmon, white spot syndrome in tropical shrimp, and photobacterosis in gilthead seabream, in order to improve fish welfare, reduce losses, and minimise the impact on wild marine and animal life.
  • We have increased breeding and genetics within international aquaculture
    Genetic selection represents an important field within the Norwegian aquaculture industry. We are also developing genetic selection practices for international farming. Examples of major global species our researchers are currently working with include tropical species like tilapia, various species of carp, shrimp and European species such as gilthead seabream and European seabass. We cover all areas of this research such as designing breeding programmes and selection methods, inbreeding control, phenotype testing and breeding value calculations.

We bring our expertise in quantitative genetics and genomics to national and international applied breeding programmes.

The objective of our breeding work is to improve traits on farmed aquaculture species to make them more productive and sustainable than what we are currently able to achieve by capturing parent animals in the wild every year or for each generation.

The positive progress in genetics and the return on investment for breeding initiatives accumulates over the years, and is therefore a particularly profitable investment with several good outcomes. We have seen several examples of this.

Genetic disease resistance with genomic information

The work of reducing mortality in fish farming is an important focus area for Nofima. The development of functional genomics and genomic information is radical and fast-growing.

In several national and international research and innovation projects we investigate how high-technology breeding techniques can prevent illness and parasites and promote improved growth rates and better fillet quality among the key farming species in Norway, Europe and other parts of the world.

We use genome editing (CrispR) as a research tool, and focus our research on how genome editing can be used by the industry to develop more robust fish with improved welfare within the framework of responsible research and innovation practices (RRI).

In our projects we often connect researchers in Nofima with different skillsets and expertise in fields such as fish health, production biology, nutrition and breeding. This way of working gives us a viable platform for solving many of the challenges the industry is facing when it comes to the health and wellbeing of farmed fish.

Advances in breeding can lead to higher omega-3 levels in salmon

The greatest cost in Norwegian salmon farming is feed. Systematic selection over generations of fast-growing salmon has resulted in salmon which is also able to better utilize the nutrients in the feed.

This equates to an estimated saving of 5 billion NOK per year in feed costs for Norwegian salmon farmers.

We are researching how we can improve accuracy in our selections in order to further increase feed utilization. This involves investigating the relationship between body mass and fat in the fish as well as looking into new methods of recording feed absorption in individual fish.

Since the supply of fish meal and fish oil is limited, the salmon’s diet has changed. Today salmon feed consists of more than 70% plant proteins and oils. This has led to a decline in the level of healthy omega-3 fatty acids in the fish.

Our findings show that there are hereditary variations in both the EPA and DHA levels in salmon, which means some salmon families have higher intramuscular levels of the healthy fatty acids than others.

These differences can be used in breeding programmes to breed salmon that are better able to produce and accumulate healthy fats.

We examine which genes and gene variants affect the intra-muscular fatty acid composition in salmon in order to understand which physiological processes affect the fatty acid composition, and to contribute to implementing this information in breeding programmes in more efficient ways.

Gaining further knowledge about wild salmon

Information about the genome, genetics and natural selection among salmon represents fundamental insights which we use to understand the wild salmon and how escaped farmed salmon affects the wild salmon populations.

For example, we are investigating which factors determine the robustness of individual populations in a river system. We examine the extent to which escaped farmed salmon can affect the genetic composition of wild salmon populations and the consequences of their ability to survive.

We work together with anglers, local river owner associations and hatcheries to increase our knowledge and contribute to the sustainable management of wild salmon and trout populations.

Read more about:

Creating Value

Some results from scientific projects in breeding and genetics

Closer to PD-resistant salmon


New insights about fish biology and genetics are bringing Nofima scientists ever closer to salmon with high resistance to PD viral disease.


Boosting EU fish breeding


European aquaculture is being taken to the next level through technological advances in breeding of six species in Europe.


Breeding for more omega-3 in salmon


New findings have revealed differences in the heritability of EPA and DHA in Atlantic salmon. This is important knowledge for breeders.


Genetics improves fish resistance


The combination of three genetic markers on three chromosomes can be the key to high survival after viral infection in salmon farming.


Up one level for six species


European fish breeders can now integrate tools and technologies developed in FISHBOOST into their breeding programmes.


Salmon puberty gene discovered


Nofima scientists have helped identify the salmon maturation gene – a major international breakthrough with major potential for farming.


See more examples of Creating Value

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