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Canadian Aquaculture R&D Review 2011

Finfish - Freshwater

Upper temperature tolerance in Arctic Charr

Understanding how fish deal with warm water and how to limit or prevent summertime mortality is a critical issue for our company. The natural range of Arctic Charr is the most northerly of all the salmonid species and intensive culture is typically limited to regions where water temperatures are not expected to exceed 15°C on a regular basis. Our approach to improving upper temperature tolerance in Arctic Charr involves both molecular genetics, performed in collaboration with Dr. William Davidson at Simon Fraser University (SFU), and traditional breeding techniques employed by Icy Waters.

At SFU, samples of heat sensitive and heat tolerant fish have been analyzed using a 32K microarray developed for salmonids by cGRASP. Eighty–four genes that are only expressed in fish with high upper temperature tolerance have been identified. At Icy Waters, we have recently established a select line of warm water tolerant broodstock and are attempting to estimate the heritability of this trait in our strains. We have also produced several backcrossed families that will be used in linkage studies to identify genetic markers associated with temperature sensitivity. By understanding the mechanism by which Arctic Charr endure warm water temperatures, we hope to breed a strain that is more resistant to temperature stress.

Sept. 2008 – ongoing • Funded by: Icy Waters Arctic Charr Ltd., Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)
Project team: Colin McGowan, William S. Davidson
Contact: Colin McGowan (, William S. Davidson ( •

Icy Waters' facility in the Yukon

Innovative technology for Canada's White Sturgeon aquaculture industry

Sturgeon products, including caviar, represent highly soughtafter commodities across the globe. The successful development of Canada's White Sturgeon aquaculture will enable the production of White Sturgeon caviar, which will boast one of the highest values of all Canadian agriculture products. Operating under the highest environmental performance and traceability, Canada has the potential to become a new competitor in the global farmed caviar trade, while helping to alleviate pressure on endangered wild stocks.

This project designed modifications to a Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS) to retrofit two existing outdoor reuse tanks, in order to provide fine control of the sturgeon rearing environment while conserving water and energy.

The new system reduces water use between 98 and 99%, and has resulted in considerable energy savings. Additionally, it allows Target Marine to heat tanks to a temperature appropriate for sturgeon culture, and the increased temperature has resulted in higher feeding rates. The system efficiently removes solids, carbon dioxide, and ammonia from the water.

Target Marine anticipates that the use of this technology could reduce the time to maturation and caviar production. These technical improvements are driving scientific excellence and best practices for sustainable resource use.

Aug. 2009 – Apr. 2010 • Funded by: DFO – Aquaculture Innovation and Market Access Program (AIMAP), Target Marine Hatcheries Ltd., Community Futures – Sunshine Coast, Vancouver Island University, Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC, University of California Davis
Project team: Justin Henry (General Manager, Target Marine Hatcheries Ltd.), Robert Haines, Lorraine Fawkes, John Percy (Target Marine Hatcheries Ltd.)
Contact: Justin Henry ( •

Small sturgeon at Target Marine facility

Optimizing fish oil supplementation in the feed of commercially grown Arctic Charr

Arctic Charr have the most northerly distribution of any freshwater finfish and have evolved to exploit an environmental niche where other salmonids, such as Atlantic Salmon, do not thrive. Consequently, a commercial diet formulated for Atlantic Salmon might contain more fat than that required by Arctic Charr for healthy growth. The objective of this project was to investigate the dietary fat requirements of Arctic Charr and determine whether the amount of supplemented fish oil in their feed can be reduced. Fish were offered either a high fat (26%) or low fat (18%) diet under commercial conditions. After 12 months, no significant difference in growth rate, food conversion ratio (FCR), rate of maturation and mortality was observed between the two groups. The average fat content of fillets was similar in both groups, but more consistent in fish fed a low fat diet. Flesh quality and organoleptic analysis demonstrated a preference for fish fed the low fat diet. Decreasing the level of fat supplementation will lower the cost of production and improve the sustainability of Arctic Charr aquaculture by reducing its dependence on fish oils derived from the wild fishery. It might also improve the quality and taste of the final product.

Apr. 2007 – ongoing • Funded by: Icy Waters Arctic Charr Ltd.
Project team: Jonathan Lucas (Icy Waters Arctic Charr Ltd.), Colin McGowan (Icy Waters Arctic Charr Ltd.), John Rose (Icy Waters Arctic Charr Ltd.), Brad Hicks (Taplow Feeds International)
Contact: Jonathan Lucas ( •

Eggs and alevins

Selection and breeding program for Rainbow Trout in Canada

One priority of the freshwater aquaculture industry is the establishment of a national broodstock program to develop enhanced performance in Rainbow Trout, specifically targeting improved fillet yield, enhanced growth rate and greater tolerance to warm–water conditions.

As first steps in this process, IPSFAD and partners held two workshops on the development of a Selection and Breeding Program for Rainbow Trout Aquaculture in Canada. With the results from the first workshop as a base, the Selection and Breeding Program for Rainbow Trout Aquaculture in Canada was poised to begin Phase II – development of a framework and a directed workshop to discuss implementation of the framework. At the end of the second workshop, five conclusions were drawn as to what the next steps should be toward structure and implementation of a Selection and Breeding Program for Rainbow Trout in Canada.

Progress is made with regards to these conclusions. There is interest in all involved parties (industry, government, not–for–profit, and researchers) in initiating a selective breeding program. A committee has been formed including primarily industry stakeholders (producers and growers). Action items are being executed and the Selection and Breeding Program for Rainbow Trout in Canada is continuing its progress towards a finite structure and an implementation date.

Jan. 2009 – Mar. 2011 • Funded by: DFO – Aquaculture Collaborative Research and Development Program (ACRDP), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada – Strategic Workshops Program, DFO – National Aquaculture Strategic Action Plan Initiative, Northern Ontario Aquaculture Association, National Research Council – Industrial Research, Assistance Program (NRCIRAP)
Project team: Andy Robinson, Amber Garber, Rich Moccia, Grant Vandenberg,
Eric Boucher, Karen Tracey, David Bevan
Contact: Andy Robinson ( •

Mechanism(s) of toxicity and sub–clinical effects of DON in Rainbow Trout

Contamination of feeds with mycotoxins is becoming an issue of increasing importance in aquaculture due to the use of high levels of plant ingredients. In a previous study conducted in the UG/OMNR Fish Nutrition Research Laboratory at the University of Guelph, we found that Rainbow Trout were extremely sensitive to low dietary levels of the Fusarium mycotoxin, deoxynivalenol (DON). Consequently, this study will seek to determine the basis of this sensitivity by examining the mechanism(s) of toxicity and sub–clinical effects of DON, in Rainbow Trout. Specifically, the effects of diets containing low, graded levels of DON from naturally contaminated corn, on pathological changes of various tissues and organs will be examined. Additionally, the effects of DON on protein synthesis and degradation pathways will be examined using in vitro cell culture studies. Finally, this project will seek to identify potential nutritional strategies to mitigate the adverse effects of DON on the health and performance of Rainbow Trout.

Sept. 2010 – Sept. 2013 • Funded by: Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affaires (OMAFRA), Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR)
Project team: Jamie M. Hooft (U of Guelph), Dominique P. Bureau (U of Guelph), Iban Seiliez, John Lumsden, Neil Karrow • Contact: Jamie M. Hooft
(, Dominique P. Bureau (

Canadian model farm initiative

Development of a land–based 'model farm' program is a priority initiative within the 3rd Industrial Action Plan of the Interprovincial Partnership for Sustainable Freshwater Aquaculture Development (IPSFAD). The Manitoba–Canadian Model Aqua–Farm is a production unit that effectively integrates current technologies in terms of nutrition and feeding strategy, fish health management, design of infrastructure and equipment, water conservation and utility, manure processing and management, production management and operational practices and standards in an effort to optimize both financial and environmental performance.

The first model farm was built in a vacant barn at Riddell's Roasters, a broiler operation located near Winnipeg, MB. Construction was completed in the autumn of 2010 and, after stocking a test batch of fish, the first two cohorts of Rainbow Trout were delivered in November (40,000 at 20 g and 40,000 at 5 g).

From 2011 through 2013, a comprehensive monitoring program will be implemented to collect, compile and analyze performance and environmental information and data from the facility, providing a detailed understanding of all operational aspects of the model farm. The initiative is intended to generate knowledge and validate technologies and practices to help overcome some of the principal challenges associated with the commercialization of intensive, land–based recirculating aquaculture. By establishing fundamental operational, environmental and economic benchmarking information, the Manitoba–Canadian Model Aqua–Farm will contribute to the sustainable development of freshwater aquaculture throughout Canada.

2008 – 2013 • Funded by: DFO – Aquaculture Innovation and Market Access Program (AIMAP), Riddell's Roasters Inc, Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives, DFO–Aquaculture Collaborative Research and Development Program (ACRDP), National Research Council – Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRCIRAP)
Project team: Grant Vandenberg, Dan Stechey, Jeff Eastman, Bill Robertson, Eric Boucher, Rudy and Leslie Reimer
Contact: Grant Vandenberg ( /aquaculture/acrdp-pcrda/index-eng.htm

Rainbow Trout sensitivity to feed–borne Fusarium mycotoxin deoxynivalenol (DON)

The effects of feeding diets containing low, graded levels of deoxynivalenol, a Fusarium mycotoxin from naturally contaminated corn, on the performance, health and apparent nutrient digestibility of Rainbow Trout were investigated. Diets with increasing levels of DON (0.3, 0.8, 1.4, 2.0 and 2.6 ppm) fed over eight weeks to Rainbow Trout (initial weight = 24 g/fish) resulted in significant decreases in feed intake, growth and feed efficiency of the fish. A pair–feeding control treatment indicated that the fish fed the diets contaminated with DON had lower efficiency of nutrient utilization than the control diet.

Contamination of the feed with DON had no effect on apparent digestibility of crude protein and gross energy. Some morphological changes of the liver were noted in fish exposed to DON. These results suggest that Rainbow Trout are extremely sensitive to DON from naturally contaminated grains and that the effects of DON on Rainbow Trout are not simply related to a reduction of feed intake, but rather, are due to deleterious metabolic effects.

Sept. 2007 – May 2010 • Funded by: Biomin (Austria), Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources
Project team: Jamie M. Hooft (U of Guelph), Dominique P. Bureau (U of Guelph), Abd El Hakeem, Ibraheem Elmor, Pedro Encarnação
Contact: Jamie M. Hooft (, Dominique P. Bureau (

Nutritive value of novel products fed to Rainbow Trout and Atlantic Salmon

Indian Mustard (Brassica juncea) is a drought resistant rapeseed variety produced in Western Canada. Recent cultivars low in glucosinolate and erucic acid have been developed and are now widely cultivated. This research project focused on the evaluation of the nutritive value of two novel Indian Mustard products, a protein concentrate containing about 62% protein and a meal containing about 44% protein. The digestibility and bioavailability of amino acids in these products were evaluated in two salmonid species, Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar) and compared to those of a commercial soy protein concentrate (55% protein) commonly used in salmonid feeds.

Apparent digestibility of crude protein and essential amino acids in these novel ingredients was as high and similar to those of the soy protein concentrate. Results also suggested that the high concentration of phytic acid of the Indian Mustard protein concentrate could potentially affect digestibility of some amino acids at high incorporation levels. A growth assay confirmed that bioavailability of amino acids in Indian Mustard protein concentrate and meal was high. This study indicates that Canadian–grown Indian Mustard products have a high nutritive value and very good potential for inclusion in salmonid diets.

Sept. 2008 – Aug. 2010 • Funded by: Bio–Extraction Inc., OMNR
Project team:M.A.K. Chowdhury (U of Guelph), Dominique P. Bureau (U of Guelph)
Contact:M.A.K. Chowdhury (, Dominique P. Bureau (

The fate of farmed Rainbow Trout

The fate of farmed fish after escape from commercial aquaculture operations is an ecological concern that has not been examined in relation to the freshwater industry. The extent to which escaped fish might impact freshwater ecosystems is dependent upon their survival and distribution in the wild and these data are essential for risk assessments.

Over a period of two years, we released Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) from two commercial aquaculture operations in the North Channel of Lake Huron to simulate small– and large–scale escape events. Before release into the wild, Rainbow Trout were tagged with either telemetry transmitters or external tags. Monitoring of telemetry fish allowed for determination of site fidelity and dispersal of escaped trout, while angler return data were used to estimate distribution, survival, and growth. Escaped farmed Rainbow Trout showed low attraction to the cage sites, but repeated visits to the farms by most fish suggest that likelihood of recapture after an escape event is possible. The major sources of mortality were angling and avian predation. The next phase of this research is to assess the potential risks that escaped Rainbow Trout may pose when at large in Lake Huron in an effort to contribute to the ongoing sustainable management of this industry.

Jul. 2008 – Mar. 2011 • Funded by: DFO – Aquaculture Collaborative Research and Development Program (ACRDP), North Wind Fisheries Ltd., Meeker's Aquaculture Canada Inc.
Project team: Paul Blanchfield (DFO), Doug Geiling (DFO), Tom Johnston, Kristen Patterson, Lori Tate, Chris Wilson, Dan Glofcheskie, Mike Meeker
Contact: Paul Blanchfield ( /aquaculture/acrdp-pcrda/index-eng.htm

Sampling trout
Rainbow Trout in cage

Substituting vegetable oils for fish oil in Rainbow Trout feed

Herring and vegetable oil

Dietary fats are a major source of energy for Rainbow Trout. Phospholipids and steroid components of body organs also rely on dietary lipids for synthesis, with certain fatty acids essential for health, growth, and normal appearance of the fish. Fish oils are the best sources of these essential fatty acids. However, the use of fish oils in finfish diets is expensive and its availability is expected to decline while demand continues to rise. This will result in an increase in feed prices and higher production costs. Furthermore, some studies have indicated that farmed salmon have significantly higher levels of persistent organic pollutants (POP) and heavy metals, compared to their wild counterparts. These contaminants are not biodegradable, and bioaccumulate and biomagnify through the food chain. At high levels, organochlorines have direct toxic effects and are carcinogenic and many are considered to be endocrine disrupters. Given that many persistent organic pollutants (POP) are liposoluble (fat soluable), nutritionists and feed manufacturers have directed research towards finding nutritionally–sound fish oil alternatives.

This proposed research project will develop Rainbow Trout diets that will partially replace fish oil with vegetable oil. This project will examine how the partial replacement of fish oil by various levels of vegetable oil will affect growth. Replicate tanks of trout will be fed to excess on a control diet (no vegetable oil) or diets that are otherwise identical but have increased levels of vegetable oil.

This study will provide the aquaculture industry with credible solutions to the issue of contamination levels in farmed salmonids. An additional advantage of fish oil replacement is the significant cost benefit to the aquaculture industry given the relatively low cost and enhanced sustainability of feeding vegetable oil.

Jul. 2009 – Jul. 2010 • Funded by: Martin Mills Inc., Elmira, Ontario Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Rural Affairs
Project team: Richard D. Moccia (U of Guelph), Michael Burke (U of Guelph), David Bevan (U of Guelph), Neil MacBeth (U of Guelph), Michael Kirk (U of Guelph), Mark Wagner (Martin Mills Inc.)
Contact: Richard D. Moccia (

Genetic variation in Rainbow Trout

Understanding the genetic basis of trait variation remains an essential goal for the improvement of aquaculture strains worldwide. Research is currently ongoing towards inventorying the genetic variation in wild, semi–domesticated, and diploid and triploid strains of Rainbow Trout in British Columbia, and a commercial strain (i.e., the LYNDON strain of Rainbow Trout) in Ontario. This strain is one of the major egg producing strains in central Canada. Building a genetic database for the LYNDON strain will help in monitoring mating success and inbreeding, through pedigree identification. The database can also eventually be utilized to help in pre–selecting broodstock individuals for desired production traits within the strain. Studies are directed at identifying the genomic regions regulating production traits such as the timing of seasonal female ovulation, (i.e., increasing the egg production window), and the onset of male maturation schedules (i.e., decreasing the incidence of early maturation), in this strain. Through the application of molecular genetic technologies such as microarray gene expression analyses, and gene expression studies of specific genes regulating appetite, growth, and lipid metabolism in Rainbow Trout, knowledge will be obtained on specific genes regulating these performance traits. By incorporating this knowledge with information on the genomic locations of genes regulating the production traits (i.e., obtained from family–based QTL studies), it should be possible to identify the most specific candidate genes regulating the various production traits under study, and thereby enhance broodstock selection regimes.

Nov. 2008 – Nov. 2012 • Funded by: NSERC Strategic Grants Program, DFO – Canadian Regulatory System for Biotechnology (CRSB)
Project team: Sean Pressey (LYNDON Fish Hatcheries Ltd.), Lynn Rieck (LYNDON Fish Hatcheries Ltd.), Gord Cole (Aqua–Cage Fisheries Ltd.), Roy Danzmann (U of Guelph), Moira Ferguson (U of Guelph), Nick Bernier (U of Guelph), Bob Devlin (DFO), Michael Burke (Alma Aquaculture Research Station), Amber Garber (Huntsman Marine Sciences Centre), Bill Robertson (Huntsman Marine Sciences Centre), Melissa Allen, Jody Atkinson, Aaron Goldt, Andrea Kocmarek, Riley Magee, Colin Richardson, Cameron Richardson, Brendan Wringe, Hooman Moghadam, Anne Easton, Xia Yue
Contact: Roy Danzmann (

Replacement of fish meal with soy in salmonid species

Increasing reliance on cost effective plant protein ingredients in fish feed formulation is considered key to the economical and environmental sustainability of salmonid culture operations. Many studies have shown that a large proportion of the fish meal in the diet of salmonids can be replaced with plant protein ingredients without deleterious effect on growth and feed efficiency of the animals. However, in other studies, incorporation of high levels of plant protein ingredients resulted in significant reductions in the feed intake, growth and/or feed efficiency of the fish. There is a need to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the nutritive value and limitations of plant protein ingredients and to better identify the sources of variations and inconsistencies amongst the results from feeding trials.

This project is based on the systematic analysis of results of scientific studies published over the past three decades on the replacement of fish meal by alternative protein sources in salmonid diets. Analysis of the results is based on two distinct approaches. The first approach involves a statistical meta–analysis of selected studies meeting strict selection criteria. The second approach involves analysis of results from a wide number of studies using a novel integrated nutritional model framework. The approach based on model simulation provided much greater flexibility to predict growth and nutrient utilization of fish fed a variety of diets formulated with different plant protein ingredients. This project suggests that the integrated nutritional model can be a useful tool to compare fish growth and utilization across various diets and ingredients. The model could also prove valuable to help fish feed manufacturers improve feed formulae.

May 2008 – Oct. 2010 • Funded by: United Soybean Board, USDA, Fats and Proteins Research Foundation
Project team: Katheline Hua (U of Guelph), Dominique P. Bureau (U of Guelph)
Contact: Katheline Hua ( khua@uoguelph,ca), Dominique P. Bureau (

Corn gluten meal and pigmentation of Rainbow Trout

Pigmentation is an important quality criterion for farmed salmonids. Dietary pink and red carotenoid pigments (astaxanthin and canthaxanthin) included in feeds contributes very significantly to the cost of production of farmed salmon and trout. Corn gluten meal (CGM) is a cost–effective protein–rich ingredient commonly used in salmonid fish feeds. However, this feedstuff contains high levels of yellow xanthophylls carotenoid (mainly lutein and zeaxanthin). Anecdotal evidence suggests that these xanthophyll carotenoids may negatively affect pigmentation of salmonid fish, either by imparting an undesirable yellowish hue to the flesh or by reducing efficiency of utilization of the expensive pink/red pigments incorporated in the diet.

The main objective of this research project is to develop a cost–effective approach to reduce the yellow carotenoid pigment content in CGM and to evaluate the effect of pigment–reduced CGM on flesh pigmentation of Rainbow Trout. The research project combines a series of bench–scale experiments to develop cost–effective pigment reduction techniques, the production of pigment–reduced CGM on a pilot–scale to produce significant quantity of this novel ingredient and its use in large–scale feeding trials with Rainbow Trout. The effect of yellow xanthophill carotenoids on efficiency of astaxanthin retention by Rainbow Trout will also be examined.

May 2008 – Aug. 2012 • Funded by: National Science and Engineering Council (NSERC), Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources
Project team: Patricio Saez (U of Guelph), Dominique P. Bureau (U of Guelph), Elsayed Abdelaal (AAFC), Jim Atkinson (U of Guelph)
Contact: Patricio Saez (, Dominique P. Bureau (

Disease resistance in Arctic Charr

As a species, Arctic Charr are a hardy fish with good overall disease resistance. However, the bacterial pathogen, Furunculosis (Aeromonas salmonicida), is a widespread problem that can result in significant losses to any fish farm. The objective of this project is to create a line of Arctic Charr with improved resistance to this disease.

Our first goal was to determine whether or not there is sufficient genetic variation for this trait in the Icy Waters strains to achieve measurable change. During the summers of 2008 and 2009, several unvaccinated populations of Arctic Charr were exposed to the pathogen, which is present in local sources of surface water. Differences in the mortality of the Tree River and the Nauyuk Lake strains demonstrated that genetic variation is indeed present in our populations and a selection program may be feasible. Survivors from this challenge continue to be maintained at our facility and form the core of our Furunculosis resistant line. They will be ready to spawn by the fall of 2011.

Our current objective is to estimate the heritability of resistance to Furunculosis for our Arctic Charr populations. As the program develops, we hope to identify genetic markers for resistance that can be incorporated into our marker–assisted selection program.

Apr. 2008 – ongoing • Funded by: Icy Waters Arctic Charr Ltd. Project team: Colin McGowan (Icy Waters Arctic Charr Ltd.), Jonathan Lucas (Icy Waters Arctic Charr Ltd.), John Rose (Icy Waters Arctic Charr Ltd.)
Contact: Colin McGowan ( •

Genetic variation associated with freshwater and brackish water growth performance in Arctic Charr

Many species of salmonid fishes are tolerant of being reared in full strength seawater once they have smoltified, due to their evolutionary adoption of a life–history cycle that involves anadromous migrations between freshwater and saltwater. Other species such as Arctic Charr have, however, lost this capability to a certain degree as they have become restricted to more freshwater habitats, or have only evolved to undergo more restricted migrations into estuarine environments. In fact, a great deal of variation is known to exist among different family lines of Arctic Charr in their capabilities to withstand a full seawater challenge. These observations clearly exemplify that different genes in the populations of these fish facilitate their survivorship. By investigating the genetic variation associated with growth performance in both freshwater and brackish water among full–sib families of Arctic Charr from the Shippagan strain, insights will be provided to investigators of the more important genomic regions regulating growth in this species in both environments. Identifying the genomic regions that permit survivorship and growth in full–strength seawater is also a target of the research being conducted, and this is being done using a pair of full–sib families to try and identify QTL regions within the genome of Arctic Charr that confer the greatest survivorship and growth in a seawater environment. The families selected for more detailed genetic analyses, were chosen based upon their performance upon entering seawater (i.e., with high variation in blood osmolality readings, and growth rates).

Coupled to the studies on growth performance in Canadian strains of Arctic Charr is an interest in comparing growth performance and understanding the underlying genetics of growth expression in Arctic Charr strains worldwide. Using a commercial strain of Arctic Charr from the Icelandic National Breeding program (i.e., of European ancestry), comparisons are being made of the growth–regulating QTL regions in this strain, to those identified in the Shippigan strain (i.e., derived from the Fraser strain of North American ancestry).

Nov. 2006 – Nov. 2010 & Funded by: NSERC Strategic Grants Program
Project team: Claude Pelletier (Coastal Zone Research Institute), Paul Merlin (CanAqua Seafoods Ltd.), Roy Danzmann (U of Guelph), Moira Ferguson (U of Guelph), Sebastien Plante (U of Moncton), Brian Glebe (DFOSABS), Skuli Skulason (Holar University College, Iceland), Marcia Chiasson, Sarah Granier, Eva Küttner, Joe Norman,Xia Yue, Anne Easton
Contact:Moira Ferguson (

Arctic Charr blood sampling

Expression of target genes in vertebral bone remodeling in farmed Rainbow Trout: effects of various dietary phosphorus levels

The development of new indicators of bone tissue metabolism is required to address many important concerns respecting aquaculture development (development of new feeds, strains with low phosphorus requirements, nutrient balance models, status of the physiological condition of fish, etc.) and specifically to gain a better understanding of the development of skeletal anomalies in intensive farming of salmonids.

Preliminary experiments presented at the annual meeting of RAQ in 2010 showed that a phosphorus–deficient diet induces multiple vertebral anomalies in farmed Rainbow Trout. The project now wishes to identify the regulatory mechanisms (role and function of genes) involved in bone tissue growth that lead to such observations. More specifically, we wish to qualify and quantify to a high level of detail the effects of various dietary phosphorus levels on vertebral growth and maintenance. A combined approach being employed uses genomics combined with physiological and histomorphological analyses.

This international research project (Canada, United States, France, Belgium, and Norway) involves the joint work of some fifteen researchers specialized in the fields of molecular biology, nutrition, fish tissue mineralization, and aquaculture.

Jan. 2011 – Dec. 2013 • Funded by: Ministère du Développement Économique, de l'Innovation et de l'exportation, DFO – Aquaculture Collaborative Research and Development Program (ACRDP), Programme de recherche et de développement en aquaculture continentale (SORDAC) Inc., Réseau Aquaculture Québec (RAQ), Université Laval
Project team: Grant Vandenberg (U Laval), Marie–Hélène Deschamps (U Laval), Nadia Aubin–Horth (U Laval), Claude Robert (U Laval), Dominique Bureau (U Guelph), Ann Huysseune (Universiteit Gent, Belgique), Eckhard P. Witten (Universiteit Gent, Belgique)Jean–Yves Sire (Université Paris 6, France), Chantal Cahu (IFREMER, France), Dominique Mazurais (IFREMER, France), Kenneth Overturf (University of Idaho), Ron Hardy (University of Idaho), Tom Hansen (Havforskningsinstituttet, Norvège), Anna Wargelius (Havforskningsinstituttet, Norvège), P.E. Fjelldal (Havforskningsinstituttet, Norvège)
Contact: Grant Vandenberg ( /aquaculture/acrdp-pcrda/index-eng.htm

Spinal cords of healthy Rainbow Trout (top) and phosphorus-deficient Rainbow Trout (bottom)

Rainbow Trout fecal settling characteristics

The physical characteristics of feed and fecal waste products from trout aquaculture are important in the development of improved effluent treatment methods. They are also important considerations for the regulatory control of 'open' system technologies (e.g., cage farming), which is partially based on the dispersal characteristics of wastes in the receiving environment. The physical characteristics of greatest interest include the settling characteristics and size distribution of particles. These qualities provide the fundamentals for wastewater treatment in land–based aquaculture facilities and for the modelling of waste dispersion and the benthic 'footprint' of cage–based aquaculture facilities.

An earlier study determined the physical characteristics of feed and fecal waste generated by 400 g rainbow trout fed three commercial diets. The present study expands the data set of fecal waste principle physical characteristics to include those produced by larger, market–sized Rainbow Trout approximately 1 kg. This study supports the contention that the fecal settling velocity for large Rainbow Trout (400 to 1200 g) is higher than generally recognised, with 50% of the mass settling at 5.9 cm s–1.

Feb. 2010 – May 2010 • Funded by: Environment Canada (EC), Ontario Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Rural Affairs
Project team: Richard D. Moccia (U of Guelph), David Bevan (U of Guelph), Debbie Audet (EC)
Contact: Richard D. Moccia (

Zootechnical measures in commercial Arctic Charr aquaculture operations

The primary objective of our proposal is to implement innovative zootechnical measures that could have impact on productivity of commercial Arctic Charr aquaculture operations. The easy–to–implement measures are based on research applied to aquaculture conducted by the members of the scientific team associated with this proposal. This proposal has a research component involving technology transfer and commercial–scale validation. In our view, this proposal promotes the development of expertise in the industry and the creation of operational bases essential to growers to promote their integration and/or the initiation of a selection program for high–performance lines of Arctic Charr. The recommended measures are aimed at reproduction (spawner pairing) and nursery (velocity conditions) operations. The specific objectives are 1) to estimate the genetic variability of available Nauyuk strain in Quebec for genetic improvement and a strain development program; 2) to identify the level of relatedness between spawners and optimal pairings/crosses; and 3) to implement variable velocity conditions to significantly improve growth and the early identification of the highest–performing families.

Sept. 2010 – 2012 • Funded by: DFO – Aquaculture Collaborative Research and Development Program (ACRDP), Société de recherche et de développement en aquaculture continentale (SORDAC) Inc.
Project team: Nathalie R. Le François (Montréal Biodôme), France Dufresne (UQAR), Pierre U. Blier (UQAR), SORDAC, Francis Dupuis (Aquaculture Gaspésie inc.)
Contact: Nathalie R. Le François ( /aquaculture/acrdp-pcrda/index-eng.htm

From culture to conservation

A workshop to develop advanced reproductive technologies for sturgeon, May 8–9, 2010 Biodôme, Montréal

Novel noninvasive techniques for early sex identification in sturgeon has the promise of great economic value for current commercial aquaculture and the potential to be extremely useful in the protection and restoration of the remaining wild stocks. The objectives of the workshop were to review the current available methods in regard to all aspects of sex differentiation in sturgeons and to identify the R&D necessary to put in practice target methods. Several needs were identified during the workshop, but only nine major problems faced by the industry were chosen for prioritization. Results of the workshop were presented at Aquaculture Canada 2010 and NAIA Cold Harvest 2010 and will be published in the proceedings of the congress. With the help of our new research group, a partnership with industry, conservation and academic researchers, we are now working on a literature review as well as on the elaboration of research proposals. Lake Sturgeon will be the subject of special attention because of its weak documentation and expressed interest by Québec private partners and institutions (native species that has no major legal constraints for sale in US, strong similarities with Shortnose Sturgeon, egg size, etc.).

Feb. 2010 – Mar. 2010 • Funded by: Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), DFO – Aquaculture Collaborative Research and Development Program (ACRDP), International Partnership for Sustainable Freshwater Aquaculture Development Inc. (IPSFAD), Biôdome de Montréal
Project team: N.R. Le François (Montréal Biodôme/UQAR), G. Vandenberg (U Laval), M. Deschamps (U Laval), É. Boucher (IPSFAD), J. Henry (Target Marine Products), B. Hogan (Supreme Sturgeon & Caviar), D. Breau (Supreme Sturgeon & Caviar), D. Farley (Québec Caviar), J. Elamarneh (Québec Caviar)
Contact: N.R. Le François (

Scheme of sturgeon culture

Characterization of waste generated by trout fed commercial feed currently used in Canada

The commercial feeds formulated over the past decade have changed considerably, and differ substantially from so–called conventional feeds. They are higher in digestible energy, which means they have higher food efficiency, while producing less solid and soluble wastes.

The objective of this project is to accurately determine the growth coefficient and apparent digestibility coefficient of nitrogen and phosphorus for various size ranges of Rainbow Trout and Brook Trout fed different commercial feeds and exposed to two water temperatures (8 and 14°C). On the basis of the results, we will be able to establish nitrogen, phosphorus and dry matter balances.

These new coefficients may be used in the mathematical model developed by the University of Guelph Fish Nutrition Research Laboratory or by MAPAQ. The data will be used by the Canadian aquaculture industry to estimate the quantity of nutrients discharged by aquaculture enterprises and to properly assess the systems required to treat their effluent in order to reduce the industry's environmental footprint.

Dec. 2009 – Mar. 2012 • Funded by: DFO – Aquaculture Collaborative Research and Development Program (ACRDP), Société de recherche et de développement en aquaculture continentale (SORDAC) Inc., Programme d'aide à la recherche industrielle du Conseil national de recherches du Canada (PARI–CNRC).
Project team: G. Vandenberg (Interprovincial Partnership for the Sustainable Freshwater), E. Boucher (Interprovincial Partnership for the Sustainable Freshwater), E. Proulx (Laval University), D. Proulx (Laval University), A. Dubé (Laval University), G. Ouellet (Ministère de l'agriculture, des pêcheries et de l'alimentation)
Contact: G. Vandenberg (

Rainbow Trout pathways of excretion

Certification standards for Rainbow Trout

Driven by consumers, seafood buyers and environmental groups, a number of international certification standards have emerged. To date, a clear leader has yet to be established amongst the leading initiatives (e.g., World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Global Gap, ISO, United Nations Food and Agriculture Aquaculture Certification Guidelines, etc.). Nevertheless, most initiatives have targeted the same issues, namely: farm–to–market product traceability, quality control, environmental sustainability, social sustainability, ethical production, etc. They are widely recognized as being essential to secure continued market access.

IPSFAD has recently taken the lead to investigate a national strategy for certification standards for freshwater Rainbow Trout in Canada. As such, IPSFAD sent a delegation of freshwater aquaculture stakeholders to participate in WWF's on–going consultation process and to use these discussions as a springboard to develop a strategic plan for certification within the Canadian freshwater rainbow trout sector. The work of the IPSFAD special committee was also to submit comments on behalf of IPSFAD members to assist the Freshwater Trout Aquaculture Dialogue's (FTAD) Steering Committee revise the FTAD draft standards for environmentally and socially responsible trout farming.

Sept. 2010 – Dec. 2010 • Funded by: DFO – Aquaculture Innovation and Market Access Program (AIMAP), Interprovincial Partnership for the Sustainable Freshwater Aquaculture Development Inc., Northern Ontario Aquaculture Association
Project team: Grant Vandenberg (Interprovincial Partnership for the Sustainable Freshwater Aquaculture Development Inc.), Eric Boucher (Interprovincial Partnership
for the Sustainable Freshwater Aquaculture Development Inc.), Jeff Eastman (Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives), Karen Tracey (Northern Ontario Aquaculture Association), Mike Meekers (Northern Ontario Aquaculture Association), Dean Foss (Wild West Steelhead), Mike Rose (Global Trust), Sylvain Lareau (Association des Aquaculteurs du Québec)
Contact: Grant Vandenberg (

Display of fresh trout for market

Production of all–female stocks of Arctic Charr of the Fraser strain at the Coastal Zones Research Institute

Early sexual maturation in male Arctic Charr is considered a serious constraint to the commercialization of our Fraser–Shippagan strain. A project was therefore developed to produce all–female stocks. The Coastal Zones Research Institute acted as advisor to Fisheries and Oceans Canada and to the industry partner (Merlin's Fish Farm) in collaboration with the University of Guelph. The approach used in our study is indirect feminization. In the first feeding, future broodstock was fed feed containing the male sex hormone 17α–methyldihydrotestosterone (MDHT). The neomales thus obtained will be crossed with normal females when they reach sexual maturity.

The use of phenotypic markers will be used to determine the sex of the individuals. All individuals of each experimental family will be genotyped for these same markers. We will then be able to identify and separate neomales from females on the basis of their genotype within the experimental families. This project should allow us to produce all–female stocks.

Apr. 2009 – Mar. 2012 • Funded by: DFO – Aquaculture Collaborative Research and Development Program (ACRDP), New Brunswick Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries, Coastal Zones Research Institute, Merlin's Fish Farm
Project team: Brian Glebe (DFOSABS), Claude S. Pelletier (CZRI), Paul Merlin (Merlin's Fish Farm), Moira Ferguson (U of Guelph), Marcia Chiasson (U of Guelph), Tillmann Benfey (UNB), Christophe Herbinger (U of Dalhousie)
Contact: Brian Glebe (, Claude S. Pelletier ( /aquaculture/rp-pr/acrdp-pcrda/index-eng.html

Phase–feeding of dietary phosphorus in Rainbow Trout to reduce phosphorus discharges

Intensive aquaculture operations can result in phosphorus loadings in the environment, contributing to eutrophication of sensitive receiving waters. Phosphorus discharges from fish farms can be reduced by directly altering the bioavailability of this nutrient and the composition of fish feeds. The primary objective of this project was to optimize the formulation of a phosphorus–deficient diet. The second objective was to identify the alternating pattern of phosphorus–deficient and phosphorus–sufficient diets that maximizes growth in Rainbow Trout and minimizes phosphorus discharges. Now that the alternating pattern has been identified, the third objective is commercial–scale testing of this feeding regime. The final objective is to validate the development of this regime and its commercial use through a feasibility study. The results of this project will contribute directly to the sustainable development of the Canadian aquaculture industry. This type of feeding regime could be a tool for helping fish producers meet the objectives set by the Quebec Environment Department (STRADDAQ).

Sept. 2008 – Mar. 2011 • Funded by: DFO – Aquaculture Collaborative Research and Development Program (ACRDP), Société de recherche et de développement en aquaculture continentale (SORDAC) Inc., Fonds québécois de la recherche sur la nature et les technologies (FQRNT), Réseau Aquaculture Québec (RAQ), Programme d'aide à la recherche industrielle du Conseil national de recherches du Canada (PARI–CNRC)
Project team: Grant Vandenberg (Interprovincial Partnership for the Sustainable Freshwater Aquaculture Development inc.), Johanie Fournier (Laval University), Eric Boucher (Interprovincial Partnership for the Sustainable Freshwater Aquaculture Development inc.), Rémy Lambert (Laval University), Joël de la Noüe (Laval University), Emilie Proulx (Laval University), Daniel Proulx (Laval University), Normand Roy (Ferme piscicole des Bobines), Dave Snow (Corey Feed Mills Ltd.), Clément Roy (Ferme piscicole des Bobines)
Contact: Grant Vandenberg ( /aquaculture/acrdp-pcrda/index-eng.htm

Evaluation of a shrimp by–product to replace fishmeal in diets of Arctic Charr and other salmonids

A series of studies will be conducted at the Coastal Zones Research Institute (CZRI) to improve cost effectiveness of current and alternative sources of beneficial nutrients in aquafeeds. The objective of the first study is to evaluate a shrimp by–product available in Atlantic Canada in diets of Arctic Charr at an early life history stage. The shrimp by–product contains high concentrations of nutrients found in fishmeal (e.g., amino acids, omega–3, vitamin E, cholesterol, phospholipids, astaxanthin). One positive control diet is formulated to mimic a commercial trout feed. Five other treatment feeds contain 30, 20, 10, 5 and 0% herring meal with graded levels of shrimp by–product to replace the fishmeal on a digestible amino acid basis. Arctic Charr will be obtained from the CZRI stock and allocated to thirty 800–L circular tanks. At the end of the trial, rates of amino acid and lipid deposition will be measured to describe the efficiency of utilization of nutrients for growth and determine the cost effectiveness of the shrimp by–product. Other studies will focus on: (1) evaluating alternative sources of dietary nutrients from raw materials available in Atlantic Canada; and (2) optimizing fishmeal inclusion levels based on its composition and the fish life history stage.

Jan. 2011 – May 2011 • Funded by: Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries of New Brunswick, Regional Development Corporation of New Brunswick, New Brunswick Innovation Foundation
Project team: André Dumas (CZRI), Rémy Haché (CZRI), Yves Hébert (CZRI), Claude Landry (CZRI)
Contact: André Dumas (

Multifactorial selection (growth and disease resistance) and genetic improvement of pure and domestic Brook Trout strains: implementation of a program on farmed fish genetics

Brook Trout is the most important freshwater aquaculture species in Quebec. A group of Quebec aquaculture growers associated with the Centre de Transfert et de Sélection des Salmonidés inc. (CTSS) pooled resources to launch a genetic improvement program focused on two traits, growth and absence of early sexual maturation. The project resulted in the production of disease–free spawners of known origin, for both the Rupert and domestic strains, allowing the continuation of the work. Genetic analysis of the spawners was conducted to assess genetic diversity and to perform high–performance matings while avoiding inbreeding. The results obtained show the high inter–individual and interfamily variability required to develop a selection program. For example, depending on family, the rate of male early sexual maturation ranges from 0 to 100%. It is also interesting to note that all Spearman correlations performed on domestic strains are significant, which means that regardless of the culture site, the highest performing families show a strong tendency to be the same, even in the case of the least high–performing families.

Nov. 2007 – Mar. 2010 • Funded by:MAPAQ, Société de recherche et de développement en aquaculture continentale (SORDAC) Inc., Société de développement de l'industries maricole (SODIM), CREGIM, DEC
Project team: Luc Picard (CTSS), François Lavigne (CTSS), Louis Bernatchez (U Laval), Guillaume Côté (U Laval), Dany Proteau (P. Lac–St–François), Michel Fournier (P. Denis Fournier), Jacques Roy (P.J. Roy), Mario Demers (MRNF), Éric Hamelin (A.Nordik), Marco Blanchet (P. Trois–Lacs), Céline Audet (UQAR)
Contact: Luc Picard (

Artic Charr
Underwater image of a Brook Trout

Arctic Charr swimming depth preferences and feeding behaviour in seawater cages

Wild anadromous Arctic Charr (Salvelinus alpinus) migrate to seawater for up to eight weeks between June and September, where they can grow rapidly, and then return to freshwater for the long winter. Given the high growth rate at sea and the species' ability to withstand cold temperatures, Arctic Charr appears to be an ideal candidate for salt water culture in Atlantic Canada in general and Newfoundland in particular. Nonetheless, conflicting results have been obtained regarding seawater rearing of Arctic Charr with data suggesting that fish general performance is highly strain dependent. Recent trials by the industry partner in this project suggest that three strains (Nauyak, Labrador, and hybrids between Three Rivers and Nauyak) of Arctic Charr have been successfully reared in seawater in the summer with satisfactory growth. Moreover, most strains survived the harsh local winter conditions with mortalities lower than 0.5% per month. However, issues have been observed in feeding behaviour (surface and bottom feeders) as well as appropriate depth for feed distribution. These observations raise a number of questions on preferred depths for feeding and fish swimming patterns in the cages. This project proposes to monitor fish movement in sea cages to determine potential differences in feeding patterns between strains. Moreover, there is a need to understand environmental conditions in cages and how these parameters may influence fish swimming patterns. This will be achieved by deploying sondes in the cages and monitoring fish movement using hydroacoustic techniques. Ensuring feed is given at the appropriate depth to avoid stressing fish by unnecessary exposure to high surface temperatures is also one of the goals of gathering information on fish distribution in cages.

Apr. 2010 – Apr. 2012 • Funded by:
DFO – Aquaculture Collaborative Research and Development Program (ACRDP), Nordic Salmon Co. Inc.
Project team: Dounia Hamoutene (DFO), Chris Lang (DFO), Lee Sheppard (DFO), Sharon Kenny (DFO), Dwight Drover (DFO), John and Brian Kealey (Nordic Salmon Co. Inc.)
Contact: Dounia Hamoutene (

Arctic Charr at CZRI
Arctic Charr cage culture

Breeding program for Arctic Charr (Salvelinus alpinus) of the Fraser strain

An Arctic Charr breeding program has been under way at the Coastal Zones Research Institute (CZRI) since 1996. The main objective of the program, which is today based on modern molecular biology techniques, is to promote Arctic Charr aquaculture by offering growers a competitive and high–performance product. The research is designed to control inbreeding and improve the zootechnical performance of broodstock and its offspring. Since the start of the project, Dr. Christophe Herbinger, a geneticist at Dalhousie University in Halifax, has served as scientific advisor for our program. The growth gains achieved to date are over 40% relative to the first generation. The eggs of the fifth generation were obtained in the fall of 2010 at CZRI and, once hatched, their zootechnical performance will continue to be closely monitored until they reach commercial size. A software program integrating the genetic information of the individuals selected was created to ensure continuity of our program. With some degree of adaptation, the software can be applied to the genetic improvement of other species.

1996 – ongoing • Funded by: Ministry of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries of New Brunswick, Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Coastal Zones Research Institute
Project team: Claude S. Pelletier (IRZC), André Dumas (IRZC), Christophe Herbinger (Dalhousie U) Joël Cormier (IRZC), Gilles David (IRZC), Claude Landry (IRZC), Philippe Fullsack (Dalhousie U)
Contact: Claude S. Pelletier (

Testing the effectiveness of the SuperSmolt® Program to reduce stress and mortalities associated with the introduction of juvenile Rainbow (Steelhead) Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) to full strength sea water marine grow out sites

The main objective of this Aquaculture and Fisheries Research Initiative Inc. project was to assess the effectiveness of the SuperSmolt® Program treatment system at acclimating trout for entry into full strength sea water.

The SuperSmolt® Program was developed specifically as a treatment to control smoltification in Atlantic Salmon. This project tested the program with Rainbow (Steelhead) Trout, grown in a freshwater re–circulating system at the Brookvale hatchery in PEI and transferred to two marine grow–out sites in Nova Scotia.

The program was applied to a selected batch of juvenile trout over a 42 day period. Due to water temperature issues at one of the cage sites, some tanks were held on the program for a further 11 days, which meant they were not included in the final project results.

Overall the mortality levels at introduction were reduced, down to roughly 5–10%, from 15–25% in previous years.

Apr. 2010 – Aug. 2010 • Funded by: Aquaculture and Fisheries Research Initiative Inc.
Project team: Shaun MacLeod, Peter Warris, PEI Aquaculture Alliance, Ocean Trout Farms Inc.
Contact: Shaun MacLeod (

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