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Selective Breeding Program

Atlantic salmon farming has been a cornerstone of Tasmania's agricultural industry since 1984. Our industry began with foundation stocks descended from fish imported from the east coast of Canada in the 1960s. Over the first 20 years, six generations of Tasmanian Atlantic salmon were bred to maintain genetic diversity. In 2004, we embarked on an innovative journey by launching our unique selective breeding program. Since then, we've produced multiple generations of salmon, managed as a single genetic population, leading to substantial commercial gains. In 2023 SALTAS won the Tasmanian Seafood Awards Research, Development and Extension Awards in recognition of its contribution to the industry through its Selective Breeding Program.


Our selective breeding program is designed to decrease production costs and improve the quality of our salmon. We primarily focus on enhancing growth rates and resistance to amoebic gill disease (AGD), a major challenge for our industry that costs over $25 million annually in lost productivity and treatment. We also aim to reduce the incidence of early maturation while maintaining key carcass quality traits such as flesh colour and fat content.


To deliver on these objectives, we've adopted a meticulous three-year production cycle, producing over 200 salmon families annually. We maintain and spawn the salmon broodstock in freshwater and then raise the eggs to the 1-year-old smolt stage at our freshwater hatchery at Wayatinah in Tasmania's Central Highlands. The smolts are then transferred to purpose-built sea cages at a marine farm south of Hobart, where they are raised until they reach harvest size.


We are proud to be utilising gold-standard techniques and technologies in our selective breeding program, standing on par with or exceeding the practices of many of the largest salmon producers in the world. A key part of our success lies in our adoption of DNA genotyping, which allows us to keep track of the pedigree of each fish in our program. As of today, we genotype almost 40,000 individuals across the program each year, ensuring that all fish in the ocean are from genomically selected parents. This approach enables us to continuously refine our breeding decisions based on the performance of individuals and their relatives.


Over the years, we've developed robust systems for capturing, storing, and processing hundreds of thousands of pedigree and performance measurements. The performance of individuals, their siblings, parents, and more distant relatives are used to determine which fish to breed for the next generation. This is a testament to our commitment to using cutting-edge technology and data-driven strategies to optimise our breeding program.


Our selective breeding program exemplifies how targeted genetic selection can enhance industry productivity and address specific local challenges. This approach not only boosts our economic performance but also contributes to sustainable farming practices, leading to ongoing reductions in production costs and improvements in the quality of our salmon. We are proud of our contribution to Tasmania's Atlantic salmon industry and remain committed to pursuing innovation and excellence in all we do.