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sector_ico_Fisheries_trans Fisheries and Aquaculture

Use of digital PCR technology to measure abundance of aquatic microbes and its utilization to reduce prevalence of Kudoa thyrsites infections in farmed Atlantic salmon

  • Project Leaders: Ahmed Siah, Tiffany MacWilliam
  • Institutions: BC Centre for Aquatic Health Sciences (CAHS)
  • Budget: $93775
  • Program/Competition: Sector Innovation Program
  • Genome Centre(s): Genome British Columbia
  • Fiscal Year: 2020
  • Status: Closed

The BC salmon aquaculture sector contributes $1.5 billion to the provincial economy annually and provides 7,000 jobs to communities across the Lower Mainland and remote coastal areas. BC salmon farmers are losing an estimated $6 million annually due to the devastating impact of ‘soft-flesh syndrome’ on fillet quality. Commonly associated with the parasitic infection of Kudoa thyrsites (Kudoa), this disease causes a rapid degradation of muscle tissue and it is often undetected until the completion of processing and sales.

Kudoa is a waterborne parasite that is naturally found in BC coastal waters. Infected fish often show no visible signs of morbidity or mortality since the parasite is only activated upon the death of the host. As there are no treatments or vaccines available, current mitigation strategies rely on frequent diagnostic testing to make informed operational decisions. Current quantitative PCR-based detection methods are unable to reliably detect low levels of Kudoa in seawater samples. In this 18-month project, researchers from BC Centre for Aquatic Health Sciences and MOWI Canada West will:

  1. Demonstrate the application of digital PCR as an important tool for eDNA-based monitoring programs to detect Kudoa parasites in the aquaculture and fisheries sector;
  2. Identify seasonal changes in parasite abundance to optimize the timing of smolt introduction; and
  3. Determine whether farming activity contributes to the life cycle and abundance of the parasite.

The success of this project can lead to improved management of aquatic resources, reduce food wastage, and minimize the environmental impact of farming activities.