Selective breeding in aquaculture for future environments under climate change

Published on
March 1, 2016

Climate change has already begun to significantly affect agri- and aquaculture. However, climate change may introduce not only challenges but also opportunities for aquaculture. Dr. Panya Sae-Lim from Nofima, Norway, has presented the vision paper 'Selective breeding in aquaculture for future environments under climate change' at the international symposium on 'The Role of Agricultural Biotechnologies in Sustainable Food Systems and Nutrition' hosted by FAO at Rome 15-17 February 2016. The work presented is part of the long-term co-operation between Nofima from Norway, Natural Resources Institute Finland and Wageningen University.

Breeding programs improve characteristics of farmed animals by means of selecting genetically superior individuals to produce the next generation. Dr. Sae-Lim identified three key adaptive strategies for breeding programs of aquaculture species, which can be used to solve the challenges under climate change.

Firstly, robustness will become a key trait in aquaculture, whereby fish will be less vulnerable to current and new diseases and parasites, while at the same time thriving in a wider range of temperatures.

Secondly, breeding programs should more effectively improve the traits that maximise production while minimising environmental impacts. Many of the traits related to resource efficiency and robustness can be improved by means of novel genomics tools.

Thirdly, aquaculture should more frequently use genetically improved species not suffering from inbreeding depression. This will imply using fish materials from well-managed selective breeding programs with proper breeding goals and a controlled rate of inbreeding.

It was proposed that stakeholders should support the adoption and development of selective breeding by disseminating genetically improved materials and knowledge of selective breeding at all levels of the aquaculture sector worldwide to ensure food security for the growing human population under climate change.


The symposium focused on the biotechnologies that could result in yield increases, better nutritional qualities, and improved productivities of crops, livestock, fish and trees on which family farmers' food systems, nutrition and livelihoods depend. The symposium had three main themes: Climate change, Sustainable food systems and nutrition, and, People, policies, institutions and communities. Participants include representatives all-over the world from governments, intergovernmental bodies, the private sector, civil society, research and academic institutions, cooperatives, and other producer and farmer organizations.