AquaBreeding Project title: “Towards enhanced and sustainable use of genetics and breeding in the European aquaculture industry”

Line: batch of breeders having the same genetic background, submitted to the same selection process. 2

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1 Line: batch of breeders having the same genetic background, submitted to the same selection process.

2 Closed population: population for which new generations are produced without introducing new individuals other than those derived from the farm nucleus.

3 Crossbreeding: mating of individuals coming from two different populations, most often consisting in crossing unrelated inbred lines.

4 Within family selection: breeding strategy based on the selection of the best individuals within a predefined number of families.

5 Between family selection: breeding strategy based on the selection of a predefined number of individuals belonging to the best families.

6 Combined selection: breeding strategy based on the selection of the best individuals across the best families.

7 Within species hybrid: crossing between selected lines of the same species aimed at protecting the favourable genetic combinations of each single line.

8 Between species hybrid: crossing between 2 different species giving rise to an inter-specific hybrid that exhibit enhanced rearing performances (e.g., higher growth rate, better disease resistance, sterility…).

resistance, sterility…).

  1. Company profile (activities in Europe during the last year)



    1. Person in charge of filling the form





    1. Number of employees of the company


    1. Number of employees involved in the breeding programme


    1. R&D activity in the company

Number of employees devoted to it:

Use of consultancy service:


Yes:     No:    

    1. Annual turnover of the company (€)


    1. Number of country in which the selected material is sold


    1. Number of spats or eggs or fry produced

< 2 millions

2-20 millions

20-50 millions

50-100 millions

100-200 millions

200-500 millions

500-1000 millions

> 1 billion




























Or alternatively, exact value:


    1. Share of the national market

< 5 %

5-15 %

15-30 %

30-50 %

50-75 %

> 75 %







    1. Share of the EU market

< 5 %

5-15 %

15-30 %

30-50 %

50-75 %

> 75 %







    1. Share of the world market

< 5 %

5-15 %

15-30 %

30-50 %

50-75 %

> 75 %







  1. Complementary questions



    1. What are the research priorities for your company in the field of breeding and reproduction ?




    1. Are you conversant with the European Technology Platforms:


(Farm Animal Breeding and Reproduction-TP)


(European Aquaculture-TP)

Yes:     No:    
Yes:     No:    

    1. Do you accept your company name and address to be cited in the list of “Participating organisations to the survey on the breeding practices in the European aquaculture industry” ?

Yes:     No:    

    1. Additional comments




    1. Please send me the results of the survey (planned for January 2008) at the following e.mail address:


Thank you for your time and cooperation

Survey on the

Breeding Practices in the

European aquaculture industry

January 2009

The AquaBreeding industrial survey: a status of current trends to prepare the future
The aquaculture production is a very heterogeneous sector that links to an important and diversified range of upstream and downstream activities (EATIP Vision Paper, 2008). The aquaculture breeding activities, located at the very beginning of the production chain, reflect such a diversity. When we look at the types of implemented selective breeding programs, the dissimilarity of breeding efforts dedicated by each country and to each species, or the consideration given to breeding in the business of each organisation, it becomes difficult to delineate a unique pattern.
In order to get a better view of the breeding strategies and assess the extent of their implementation in the European aquaculture industry, the AquaBreeding project has launched a large scale industrial survey on breeding practices on European freshwater and marine aquaculture species. The target organisations are private companies, research organisations or professional associations managing closed aquaculture broodstocks submitted to a controlled selection process and used for commercial purposes.
The results of the survey presented hereafter report an extended view, even if not exhaustive, of commercial breeding companies currently active in Europe with a description of the breeding strategies implemented. The information obtained has been treated in an aggregated way to get a view per species, and tentatively per country. You can also find this information on the AquaBreeding project website:
Building on these results, it will be possible to embrace the R&D priorities of the stakeholders involved in such activities and incorporate this information into the Strategic Research Agendas under preparation in the European Technology Platforms FABRE-TP ( and EA-TP (

1. Selected species within countries

As a whole, the present survey reports 14 selected species, 33 breeding organisations and 37 selective breeding programs. However, it is important to note that these selective breeding programs are very diverse in term of:

- selection strategy implemented (individual versus combined selection),

- number (1 to 8) and type of improved traits,

- number of selected generation performed (1 to 26),

- diffusion on the market of the genetic material produced (1 to 15 countries),

- operative costs supported.

This list is not exhaustive and is expected to increase in the coming years, with the entrance of new players currently in a start-up phase.

From the current table, we can observe that the three European aquaculture species showing the highest number of running selective breeding programs are Oncorhynchus mykiss, Salmo salar and Sparus aurata.
Contrary to appearances, the implementation of a selective breeding program is not dependent on the turnover of the company (from 50.000 € to 500 Million €, data not shown) or on the number of “seeds” commercialised by one organisation (from 100.000 to 65 million fry, data not shown).

2. National view

Figure a: Aquaculture production (103 tons) and number of selective breeding programs implemented in 2008 (in brackets). Europe28: EU-27 countries plus Norway. Sources for production volumes: FEAP 2006; *: FishStat.

Figure b: Ownership / Management of selective breeding programs. PR: Private organisation; PU: Public organisation.

2. National view

Figure a:

The three most relevant species mentioned above are also those reaching the major production volume in the three European countries having the highest number of selective breeding programs implemented:

- France: 12 programs, main aquaculture fish species: Oncorhynchus mykiss,

- Norway: 8 programs, main aquaculture species: Salmo salar,

- Greece: 4 programs, main aquaculture species: Sparus aurata.
The production volume within a country does not reflect the number of selective breeding programs implemented in that country. Some countries like The Netherlands exhibit reduced aquaculture production volume (9,300 tons in 2006, FEAP source) but counts 2 selective breeding programs performed on minor species, while other countries count major species on which no selection has been implemented yet (case of Spain or even Italy for rainbow trout, seabass and gilthead seabream).
Figure b:

Most of the programs described in this survey are owned and run by private organisations.

The breeding sector is knowledge intensive. For this reason, most of the breeding organisations (83%, data not shown) rely on consultancy services to run their program. Organisations having their own experts are either research organisations, or have their core business centred on breeding, or have reached a critical size (turnover above 30 million €, data not shown).
Countries’ codes:

BG: Bulgaria

CS: Czech Republic

DK: Denmark

FI: Finland

FR: France

GR: Greece

HU: Hungary

IR: Ireland

IL: Israel

NO: Norway

PL: Poland

SP: Spain

NL: The Netherlands

UK: United Kingdom

3. Selected traits

3. Selected traits

Figure a:

Growth, easy to select and of direct interest for all producers, is the unique trait present in the breeding goals of all breeding programs. It is followed by morphology and product quality traits. Maturity and fecundity are of interest for a reduced number of species while processing yield and mostly disease resistance are of great interest for all species but are costly and require pedigree based breeding strategies to be considered.

Figure b:

Example of groups of traits:

• Processing yield: carcass, fillet, viscera, fat, gonad yields at slaughtering.

• Product quality: fat distribution, fat content, flesh colour, flesh tenderness.

• Disease resistance: resistance to bacteria (e.g. furuncolosis on salmonids) or virus (e.g. Viral Nervous Necrosis for seabass).

• Maturity, fecundity: early sexual maturity, maturity and fecundity on sturgeon.

• Morphology: vertebral and jaw deformities, condition factor.

• Others: survival, heart spine.

Breeding programs of Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout have the breeding goal with the highest number of selected traits. Only one program includes all the 8 listed group of traits while 5 others include 6 of them (data not shown). They are followed by the Atlantic cod. All the other marine fish species are selected on no more than 3 of the group of listed traits.

4. Reproductive technologies

4. Reproductive technologies

Figure a:

Photoperiod and temperature are the basic approaches applied to activate the maturation in most species.

The most popular technique to obtain the offspring population is the artificial fertilisation, but mass spawning is also widely used.
Figure b:

Artificial fertilisation is systematically used on salmonids breeding programs. In some cases, these programs also rely on mass spawning, while the latter technique becomes the most popular for species characterised by difficulties in fully mastering the artificial fertilization (Atlantic cod, seabass, gilthead seabream and common sole).

Hormonal induction is used both on males and females to facilitate the artificial fertilisation. Spermiation induction is mostly used for Atlantic salmon and monosexing is exclusively used on trout breeding programs. Cryobanks are implemented on 7 species among 14 breeding programs.

5. Mean number of parents per line

Values above series represent the number of lines per selective breeding program. *: line divided into 2 to 4 age classes

5. Mean number of parents per line

The figures report the number of parents per line per generation, while a breeding program may be based on one or more lines. Lines are batch of breeders having the same genetic background, selected for the same breeding goal. In general such lines are closed so that new generations are produced without introducing new individuals other than those derived from the farm nucleus. When a line is produced over more than one year (* in the graph), we refer to year-classes. In this case, the figure reports the number of parents per year-class.

Differences seen in the graph on the number of breeders per line and the number of lines present in a breeding program may be due to the difference of fecundity among species (2.000 eggs per kg body weight for rainbow trout compared to 300.000 for seabass), the easiness to master the artificial fertilisation and the share of seeds market covered by the program.
Figure a:

Half of the breeding programs are based on 100 to 200 parents per line. Other four rely on more than 800 breeders while one further group of six programs produce the new generation with less than 100 parents.

Figure b:

Most of the breeding programs having more than 200 parents per line are conducted on species with low fecundity and easy to reproduce artificially.

The split of lines in year-classes is imposed by technical reasons to produce the required breeders per generation and to ensure the yearly production of genetic material. On the other side, breeding programs having 100 to 200 parents per generation tend to maintain more than one line each generation.

6. Molecular tools and protection strategies

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