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C$1 Million Award to Guelph for Aquaculture

15 February 2012

CANADA - The University of Guelph has received nearly $1 million from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) for two projects to benefit Canada’s aquaculture industry.

The awards were in Ottawa by Gary Goodyear, minister of state (science and technology). Across the country, the government will invest more than C$32 million over three years to support research projects by 70 scientific teams at universities.

The funding comes from NSERC’s strategic projects grants program, intended to increase research and training in specific sectors to improve Canada’s economy, society or environment in the next decade.

U of G researchers will study ways to combat bacterial coldwater disease (BCWD) and improve feeding efficiency in aquaculture of Canadian rainbow trout.

“These innovative projects will benefit Canada’s aquaculture sector and the country’s economy and environment,” said Prof. Rich Moccia, Guelph’s associate vice-president (research) and head of U of G’s aquaculture research centre.

“Aquaculture is the fastest-growing sector in the agri-food industry, creating food, new jobs and economic wealth in many regions around the world.”

Fish farming now meets more than 50 per cent of the global demand for seafood. But the sector’s rapid growth has also raised concerns about the stewardship of aquatic and fishery resources, and the sustainability of current production technologies. “The Guelph research projects address some of the challenges being faced,” Mr Moccia said.

Prof. John Lumsden, Department of Pathobiology, is developing management tools for bacterial coldwater disease. Caused by Flavobacterium psychorophilum, BCWD can kill 20 to 30 per cent of some trout strains and increases the risk of antimicrobial resistance. No commercial vaccine exists.

Mr Lumsden and his collaborators, Jan MacInnes and Brian Dixon of the University of Waterloo, received $541,950 to develop novel management strategies, including potential vaccines that will to lower disease incidence and reduce the use of antimicrobial treatments. They’ll also identify resistant and vulnerable families of rainbow trout to better understand the immunological basis of disease resistance.

"Coldwater disease poses a significant problem for freshwater aquaculture in Canada," said Mr Lumsden. "We hope to better understand disease mechanisms and the immune response of fish following infection.”

Knowing more about its immune system and its response to antigens and adjuvants might help in fighting other pathogens and protecting other fish species, he said.

“An integral component of our team is new trainees, who will develop skills needed to support the Canadian aquaculture industry."

Prof. Dominique Bureau, Animal and Poultry Science, has received $452,556 to improve productivity of rainbow trout operations in Canada and France. In both countries, those operations generate significant local economic activity.

As trout grow, they become less able to convert food into flesh, making it less cost-effective for trout producers to grow large fish. Using novel models developed at Guelph, Bureau and his research team will work with scientists at France’s Institut national de recherche agronomique to study how rainbow trout use and convert protein.

“Meaningfully comparing results achieved with different strains of rainbow trout on different farms in different countries is very difficult due to differences in spawning seasons, feed composition, harvest weight, and the effect of water temperature profile and season on growth and feed efficiency of these fish,” Prof Bureau said.

“Models developed here at the University of Guelph could be extremely useful to carry out meaningful standardized comparisons. We’ll also use our know-how to develop practical tools and effective strategies to improve economic and environmental sustainability of trout culture in Ontario.”

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