Selective Breeding Research Program

The aquaculture industry has been slow to adopt quantitative genetics and selective breeding as compared with the terrestrial plant and farm animal industries. A breeding program for bivalve shellfish is particularly promising for producing genetic gains based upon their relatively high fecundity (prolific spawning) and heritability (ability to pass on economically important traits). These factors combined with short generation intervals and recent advances in genome sequencing promise to produce higher performing shellfish.

Catalina Sea Ranch has teamed with scientists from USC’s Molecular and Computational Biological Sciences Department for innovating and accelerating the science of selective breeding. Molecular biologists bring laboratory-based approaches about the workings of genes, proteins, chromosomes, and cells. Computational biologists focus on the design and development of algorithms that analyze DNA, protein sequences, and other biological data.

Catalina Sea Ranch was awarded a NOAA Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grant for “Improving Seed Production for Marine Shellfish Aquaculture in the United States”. This Phase I research contract for $95,000 has been completed and the Phase II $400,000 contract for commercialization is underway. This innovative research project has the potential to provide the foundation for global bivalve broodstock security and improved viability.

The expertise developed for selective breeding program of mussels is transferrable to other broadcast-spawning bivalves (scallops and oysters) for delivering gains by shortening growth cycles, improving yields, and increasing uniformity. There is also the potential for breeding for specific, high-value markets requiring consistency in size, shape, coloration, and greater Omega-3 content. Cutting-edge molecular and computational technologies are promising for the advancement of the global aquaculture industry. The ability to apply these advanced breeding techniques to scallops and other high-value marine crops would have a significant positive impact on profitability.