kingfish hapuku

Genetics advances aquaculture programme

Commercial fish farming of large marine fish could help the aquaculture industry reach their $1 billion sales target by 2025, according to the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA).

This bold claim comes after several years of research into the logistics of kingfish and hapuku (groper) farms in New Zealand waters, assisted by AbacusBio consultants Fiona Hely and Peter Amer, who have undertaken breeding scheme design simulations.

A cornerstone of this emerging industry will be a successful breeding programme. These fish are large at maturity - which means that the infrastructural demands make existing programmes used for commercial breeding of smaller species such as salmon, completely unrealistic for fin fish.

That is where Fiona and Peter come in. They have been using statistical models to simulate small breeding programmes, allowing them to assess the potential for domesticating fin fish. The big challenge is to balance the trade-off between achieving high rates of genetic progress through selecting only offspring from the best parents against the resulting loss of genetic diversity. Their work, in conjunction with NIWA scientists Jane Symonds and Seumas Walker, has recently been accepted for scientific publication.

”We have shown how to manage small breeding programmes and still make significant genetic gain” Fiona says. As this fledgling industry emerges, we can expect to see improving returns on our exports and a great product on our dinner plate.