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Researcher Works With Aquaculture Industry to Improve Rainbow Trout Filet Quality, Yield

By Samantha Watters

Rainbow trout is a favorite of anglers but it’s also central to a $100 million aquaculture industry in the U.S. To help meet a growing global demand for food and support domestic producers, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has awarded a $500,000 grant to support University of Maryland-led research exploring genomic selection as a method to increase filet quality and yields in rainbow trout.

“Using genomic technologies and genetic markers, we can help identify the genes that are important for how feed transitions into filet in the fish,” said Mohamed Salem, associate professor in the Department of Animal and Avian Sciences, who is leading the project. “When you grow a fish, some fish will put more of the feed energy you give them into filet, and some will deposit more into visceral fat, which is a complete waste. So identifying the genetic markers that are associated with this conversion process will help improve feed efficiency.”

While classical breeding can improve yield over time, it is a slow and time-consuming process. Genomic selection provides breeders with the additional information needed to increase the accuracy of precision breeding and improve the overall genetic quality of their breeding stock much more rapidly, Salem said.

He is partnering with NIFA, the University of Georgia, the University of Idaho, Middle Tennessee State University and Pacific Aquaculture. Pacific Aquaculture grows rainbow trout in Washington and Idaho, and is looking to a solution to the problem of “downgrading,” caused by cracks forming in filets, resulting in losses of tens of thousands of dollars a week.

The reason for the cracks is unknown, and this work aims to find the genetic reasons behind the problem while examining genetic markers that relate to overall filet quality.

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