The Breeding and Genomics group in CSIRO Aquaculture provides research and development for the commercial aquaculture sector in Australia and internationally. Currently, the group has a portfolio of fundamental and applied science focusing on multiple finfish, crustacean and mollusc species including Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), tiger prawn (Penaeus monodon), Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas) and abalone (Haliotis spp.).
CSIRO Aquaculture’s long standing engagement with these sectors has grown out of work with the domestic Atlantic salmon and Pacific oyster farming industries to maintain and manage their genetic resources.
As those industries (and others) have matured, the Aquaculture program’s role also matured through an increased emphasis on quantitative genetics and the associated processes required to drive selective breeding. Program scientists play a key role in assessing emerging technologies, and implementing those that can drive impact for the aquaculture industries. An example is development of a data culture where numerate staff and effective data systems play a central role. Data is, in effect, the fuel that drives genetic gain and insights into biological variation. Accordingly, in addition to animal biologists, applied breeders and quantitative geneticists, bioinformaticians and software engineers routinely contribute to the group through the design, construction and maintenance of equipment and systems for rapid and secure data capture, storage, retrieval and manipulation. At the same time, the ‘omics revolution has opened opportunities to unravel the biology of economically important traits, develop novel ways to measure biological variation and implement genomics tools and methodologies that enhance how selective breeding is conducted.
The group currently manages selective breeding programs for nine diverse species in Australia and internationally, with a research budget in the order of $2M per annum. The group is expanding to meet the growing scale and sophistication of the aquaculture sector, via the evolution of existing breeding programs and the development of new ones. For example, the group has successfully transformed breeding of Atlantic salmon in Tasmania into the age of genomics through implementation of genomic selection in partnership with Saltas. Further, work at our Bribie Island Research Facility is building a family based breeding program for the black tiger prawn with the potential to support the national industry. These initiatives continue the targeted development of activities which aim to transform the aquaculture sector through the delivery of high impact science.