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Regulatory science for aquatic animals with novel traits

Learn about the aquatic animals with novel traits theme in our aquatic biotechnology research and development strategy.

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Our goal

In regulatory science for aquatic animals with novel traits we research the risks and benefits associated with the use of aquatic novel living organisms. This allows for effective regulation.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is responsible for the regulation of aquatic organisms with novel traits through the administration of the:

This covers freshwater and marine organisms that have characteristics resulting from specific genetic changes that we made from intentional:

Risk assessment models

We must conduct risk assessments when a company with genetically engineered aquatic organisms (transgenic organisms) wants to bring them to Canada for sale or manufacturing.

We've developed non-commercial salmon strains with novel traits, using selective breeding and molecular biotechnology (like genetic engineering) in contained, land-based facilities. We chose salmon as a model species for study due to:

We use these fish to conduct research to support risk assessments on the potential impact of new fish on:

At DFO labs, we're studying how similar or different genetically engineered salmon are to wild salmon by examining:

Information from our studies is used to inform regulatory decisions. Whether regulators permit a proposed aquatic product with novel traits in Canada is based on potential risk to human and environmental health.

Research to date, examining multiple generations of fish, indicates that major and ongoing influxes of domesticated salmon would have the ability to influence wild populations.

Risk assessment research takes place in:

Protecting wild fish genetic makeup

Researchers are working to ensure that transgenic salmon can't affect the genetic makeup of wild populations if they escape. This means researching how to limit their reproductive capability.

Triploidy, as a containment method, means giving organisms an extra set of chromosomes. Triploid fish, shellfish and mollusks are sterile (incapable of producing viable eggs or sperm). This allows us to limit the possibility of transgenic species interbreeding with their wild counterparts.

To assess the effectiveness of triploidy, DFO scientists are:

So far, studies have shown that the triploidy approach isn't perfect. There are cases of triploid shellfish reverting over time to diploidy (2 chromosomes) and regaining their ability to reproduce. This fact is important for regulators to consider when reviewing applications for commercial development and rearing of transgenic aquatic animals.

Identifying domesticated and invasive aquatic species

Invasive species alter habitat and 'choke out' native species. DFO scientists are developing scientific tools that allow us to know which organisms are native to prevent ecosystem damage. We're working to identify domesticated (selectively bred) and invasive aquatic species, and strains with potential threats to Canadian ecosystems.

We're working with partners to maintain efficient coordination in the federal biotechnology regulatory system. These partners include:

The partnership approach reinforces our:

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