Drs. Kurt Gamperl and Mark Fast know a thing or two about fish aquaculture.
In fact, they have spent the past 15 years researching methods for improving the aquaculture production of salmon and other fish species, and for reducing the impact of pathogens and changing environmental conditions that can lead to poor health and disease.
Disease can have sizeable impacts on this industry, which has an annual production worth over $100 million per year in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Dr. Gamperl, a professor at the Department of Ocean Sciences, Faculty of Science, and Dr. Fast, associate professor at UPEI’s Atlantic Veterinary College, are leading a pan-Atlantic research initiative to improve the health and welfare of cultured Atlantic salmon using genomics and other biotechnologies.
To continue this work, the pair have been awarded $4.4 million by multiple funders, including the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), the provincial government’s InnovateNL, as well as industry and other academic partners.
“This investment will allow Dr. Gamperl to continue his work to enable the Atlantic salmon aquaculture industry to better prepare for the effects of climate change.”
The project will equip the Atlantic salmon aquaculture industry with the information and tools needed to develop more disease-resistant broodstock and improved vaccines, which will result in a more robust industry.
“We will examine how changing environmental conditions affect the immunology of salmon and the efficacy of current vaccines, identify biomarkers of stress and disease resistance,” explained Dr. Gamperl. “We will develop broodstock and research tools that will enable the industry to continue to grow despite the challenge of higher ocean temperatures.”
Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
The funding announcement, which took place at the Ocean Sciences Centre in Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove and was hosted by Dr. Ray Gosine, vice-president (research) pro tempore, saw Nick Whalen (member of Parliament for St. John’s East, on behalf of Navdeep Bains, minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development) commit $2.99 million for the project on behalf of ACOA’s Atlantic Innovation Fund, which encourages partnerships among private sector firms, universities, colleges and other research institutions to develop and commercialize new or improved products and services.
“Through this project, Memorial University is taking a collaborative approach and applying its expertise in genomics research to the aquaculture industry, which is one of the leading sectors in this region,” said Minister Whelan. “This research and innovation project will benefit local aquaculture companies by creating innovative methods to address challenges in the industry and advance new opportunities for growth.”
The Christopher Mitchelmore, minister of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation for the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, announced $500,000 for the initiative through InnovateNL, the newly minted umbrella organization for the delivery of provincial innovation programs and services.
“The provincial government, through InnovateNL, is pleased to support the province’s aquaculture industry,” said Minister Michelmore. “This industry has been identified as having high growth potential by the cabinet committee on jobs, which is focused on stimulating new business activity and creating new private sector jobs for residents throughout the province. This project combines regional talent and capacity in both genomics and aquaculture to improve the quality of broodstock and provide for ongoing health monitoring. It also is in keeping with our commitment to fostering an environment where business can excel.”
Total project cost
The total project cost is $4.4 million, with approximately $900,000 of the funding coming from industry and national academic partners.
“I’d like to thank both the federal and provincial governments for their continued investments in research at Memorial. It is investments such as this that enable world-class research to be undertaken and the results of that research to be put into practice,” said Dr. Gosine. “I’d also like to extend congratulations to our industry and academic partners: University of Prince Edward Island, University of Waterloo, University of Guelph, Cooke Aquaculture, the Centre for Aquaculture Technologies Canada and Somru BioScience. This investment will allow Dr. Gamperl to continue his work to enable the Atlantic salmon aquaculture industry to better prepare for the effects of climate change.”
“Through the Innovation and Skills Plan, the Government of Canada is focusing on skills, research, technology and commercialization in growing sectors of the economy,” said Minister Bains. “This investment will enable Memorial University to work with key partners to lead the way in genomics research which will help develop a stronger aquaculture industry in Atlantic Canada.”