Currently, 90 per cent of aquaculture production in Aotearoa New Zealand is based on one species of finfish. This lack of diversification could threaten the sector’s growth and resilience. To help mitigate this risk, scientists at Plant & Food Research are breeding new species including taonga species.
Aotearoa New Zealand’s aquaculture sector is growing fast and provides half of the annual seafood supply. The growth is likely to continue as wild fisheries reach or exceed sustainable limits. To help fill the demand, the New Zealand seafood industry has set a goal of $1 billion in annual sales by 2025.
To diversify species for aquaculture, scientists at Plant & Food Research are breeding new species including those that could be farmed in warmer zones, such as the Coromandel in the North Island.
This breeding programme focusses on two native species with cultural significance to Māori – tāmure / snapper and ararra / trevally. Māori commercial interests and mātauranga Māori / Māori knowledge are integrated in the research through ongoing discussion with Māori partners.
Podcast: Breed like fish
Using recent advances in genomic technology, the research is looking at ways to assess and select commercially desirable traits faster and with less cost than traditional breeding. Desirable traits include growth rates, disease resistance and environmental hardness such as temperature tolerance.
Scientists are employing a whole-genome approach, combined with automated assessment – biometric imaging software that obtains phenomic data. This leverages Plant & Food Research’s wider genomic and phenomic expertise gained from long-term crop breeding programmes such as kiwifruit.
Plant & Food Research has extensive expertise in large-scale fish husbandry, next generation fish production methods, and physiology and behaviour. It also conducts research to support the seafood sector.
The outcomes of this accelerated breeding research will lay the groundwork for a general breeding approach for additional indigenous species in future, and support future wild stock enhancement for recreational, iwi and commercial fishing.