Swansea’s Atlantic salmon research programme receives RCUK and Industry funding boost

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Two Swansea University research projects have been named as the recipients of grant funding aimed at improving understanding of the factors affecting sustainable aquaculture, and will consolidate the University’s Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Research (CSAR) at the vanguard of aquaculture research in the UK.

Professor Carlos Garcia de LeanizResearch led by Professor Carlos Garcia de Leaniz (pictured) and Dr Sonia Consuegra, of the Department of Biosciences in the College of Science, will examine how epigenetic mechanisms can help manage stress and disease resistance in Atlantic salmon.

The project is one of 21 new UK research projects that will receive £5M of funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) to improve the sustainability of aquaculture.

It represents a multi-disciplinary collaboration between Swansea University’s College of Science and the Medical School, and the Universities of Cardiff, East Anglia, and Aberdeen.

It has also received support from two of the largest fish producing companies in the world, Marine Harvest Scotland and Landcatch Natural Selection of Hendrix-Genetics, as well as from Sainsbury’s.  The Swansea team also participates in a second Atlantic salmon project, led by the University of Highlands and Islands.

Professor Garcia de Leaniz said: “We are extremely happy that two of our Atlantic salmon projects were selected for funding by Research Councils UK (RCUK), as these will allow us to take a new look into an old problem: it has long been known that conditions experienced during development can have profound effects later in life, for example by making animals more or less susceptible to parasites and diseases.

“The problem is that we don’t really know why or how, although we suspect that epigenetic changes may be involved.

“Epigenetics examines how environmental factors can change the expression of genes, an approach that is very much at the forefront of health and cancer research in humans. Our two projects will be the first ones to apply epigenetics to fish farming.”

The aquaculture sector provides a vital role in feeding a growing population, set to reach 9BN by 2020.  In the UK, the value of aquaculture in producing finfish such as salmon and sea trout is worth around £580M per year and rising.  Challenges to the industry such as disease and parasite infections affecting farmed stock have a devastating impact.

Professor Melanie Welham, BBSRC’s Science Director, said: “To help ensure sustainable aquaculture stocks for society and the economy, a broad research base is needed to understand the biology and health of farmed species. Research focusing on the interactions between industry and the ecosystem is crucial to ensure sustainable production of this healthy and nutritious food source.”

The projects funded under this call also receive support from co-funders Centre for the Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Sciences (Cefas), Marine Scotland Science and the Scottish Government.

For more information visit http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/funding/opportunities/2014/joint-nerc-fish-health-disease.aspx