Aquaculture, Breeding Programs and Conservation

1. Chinook salmon

The net pens at our industry partner Yellow Island Aquaculture Ltd on Quadra Island, British Columbia.


Dr Daniel Heath at Yellow Island Aquaculture.

The re-circulating spawning channels at Yellow
Island Aquaculture; the structures in the
background are used for behavioural
observations during spawning.





It is now recognized that the capture fisheries alone are unable to sustain demand for seafood consumption and that aquaculture, or fish farming, is a key component of the solution. Indeed, salmon aquaculture is one of Canada’s fastest growing industries and it is valued at over 600 million dollars each year. Over the past decade, Canada has seen the emergence of the aquaculture industry focusing on Atlantic salmon. However, the potential impact of escaped farmed Atlantic salmon on our west coast, where they represent an invasive species, has hampered growth in Canada’s aquaculture industry. Farming of native Pacific salmon such as Chinook is an alternative, but less is known about successful farming practices of these species. Thus, although farming of Pacific salmon represents a strong market with growth potential, it faces unique challenges. Our research will provide research needed to develop efficient and effective farming practices, and will help to develop the industry and make Canada a global leader in the farming of Pacific salmon.

Traditional aquaculture practices are based on breeding techniques developed within the salmon enhancement program. These techniques typically mate randomly chosen females and males in a 1:1 ratio. However, these traditional aquaculture practices have led to phenotypic and genetic divergence of farmed fish from wild fish through both environmental and evolutionary processes. We propose that artificial breeding programs, for both aquaculture and enhancement of wild populations, will benefit by incorporating SEXUAL SELECTION into the breeding programs. Sexual selection can increase offspring performance through increased GENETIC QUALITY. For example, research on fish and mammals has demonstrated that mate choice can increase immunity and survivorship of offspring by enhancing favourable allelic combinations of genes at the MAJOR HISTOCOMPATIBILITY COMPLEX.

We have partnered with Yellow Island Aquaculture Ltd, which is a fish farm located on Quadra Island in British Columbia that is dedicated to ORGANIC PRODUCTION of Chinook Salmon. Yellow Island Aquaculture infrastructure consists of six re-circulating freshwater spawning channels for research (and eventually for production), a hatchery facility with vertical stack incubation trays and rearing tanks, and saltwater netpen rearing facilities. It has run a Chinook salmon production and broodstock program since 1986. The broodstock was founded with gametes taken from the Robertson Creek hatchery on Vancouver Island.