Producing fish is an important farming activity in countries around the Mediterranean and many other coastal areas around the world. Mediterranean seabass and seabream are produced in the clean waters of coastal Greece and other countries in the region. The Animal Breeding and Genomics Centre (ABGC) is providing the genetics expertise for two companies that produce seabass and seabream in Greece. By incorporating the genetic improvement program as much as possible in the existing infrastructure of a farm, good genetic progress is obtained in a sustainable and cost-effective manner.
ABGC supports the different steps of the genetic improvement process, with the aim to eventually improve performance of the fish populations.
The breeding programs have been designed to fit to the natural reproductive behaviour of seabass and seabream. Seabass and seabream spawn in a group of many males and females. Eggs and sperm from many different individuals mix. DNA information is, therefore, used to construct pedigrees and to ensure good representation of all families in the program. In selection, relatedness among individuals is taken into account to avoid inbreeding.
The aim of the breeding program is to improve performance of the fish populations. Improving growth is the main objective but several aspects of the fish’s appearance are also very important. The majority of bass and bream are sold as whole fish, which means that the customer will decide whether or not to buy the fish based on its appearance. To select for shape and appearance on a large number of fish, ABGC has developed automated recording equipment in collaboration with Dorset Identification. This phenotyping equipment measures the identity, the weight and takes multiple images of each fish and combines all this data into a single database.
The data collected from DNA information, together with the data on the weights and appearance of the fish is used to make selection decisions. Breeding groups for the next generation are created such that improvements in growth and appearance are maximized while inbreeding is minimized.