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Archived – BioCage to control fish farm escapees through genetically-engineered nutritional requirement

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A unique study (BioCage) taking place at Laval University in Quebec is looking at a novel way to prevent long-term survival of escaped cultured fish. This would effectively prevent interactions with wild populations of the same or related species, and establishment of feral populations in areas where they are not native. While there has been relatively little demonstrated problem to date with escaped salmon, concerns will inevitably grow as more alien species are added to the aquaculture repertoire. Global warming is also likely to increase the risk of warm-water fish surviving and breeding unchecked in northern areas where they formerly would not have survived.

A team from Laval University, led by Dr. Grant Vandenberg, is developing a line of transgenic Atlantic salmon with an increased requirement for a specific nutrient that cannot be supplied by foods in the natural environment, but could be incorporated into fish feed formulations. Penned fish would remain healthy, but without the extra nutrient in their prepared feed, escaped fish would be unable to reproduce and would soon die due to lack of the missing nutrient.

Specifically, the project is a three-year investigation designed to: 1) evaluate several genetic constructs that would have the effect of increasing the specific requirement for a particular nutrient, 2) use a model species to verify appropriate expression of the modified or introduced genes, and 3) validate the ability of special feed formulations to maintain good growth and health in the modified fish.

Funded through grants from NSERC, the Atlantic Salmon Federation, FQRNT-RAQ and Laval University, the BioCage program is now in its second year.

Duration: Nov ’07 – Oct ‘10
Funded by: NSERC. Co-funded by: Atlantic Salmon Federation, FQRNT, RAQ, U Laval
Project team: Grant Vandenberg (U Laval), Mark Ekker (U Ottawa), Garth Fletcher (MUN), Lyne Létourneau (U Laval), Francois Pothier (U Laval), Rodrigue Yossa-Nouaga, Pallab-Kumer Sarker.
For information contact: Grant Vandenberg (

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