The Australian barramundi industry (through ABFA) have long appreciated the potential for improving the sustainability and profitability of production through the appropriate implementation of genetic management and improvement of the species. However, previous attempts to develop a coordinated national strategy for this species have not met with success due to a poor understanding of possible models by which a breeding program within the industry can be implemented, the resources required for implementation and the potential benefits that will arise from a successful breeding program. ABFA views the investment in the Seafood CRC as an opportunity to catalyse efforts towards an industry wide approach to the sustainable and economically viable genetic management and improvement strategy for cultured barramundi.
ABFA prepared a TO for the proposed scoping study identifying the following needs and researchable constraints to the development of a barramundi genetic management/improvement strategy:
• lack of a broad, industry wide, understanding of the potential benefits (and risks) associated with genetic management and improvement
• a lack of a clear understanding of the resources (human, economic, infrastructure and genetic) required for the implementation of genetic management and improvement in this species
• gaps in knowledge required for the implementation of genetic improvement including key genetic parameters and economic weights of traits that could be improved.
• limited information on the genetic status of existing hatchery broodstock and thus their potential as founder stocks for genetic breeding programs
• lack of clear guidelines on appropriate genetic improvement strategies
The aim of this study was to review existing Barramundi-related genetic knowledge to identify relevant research and where the R&D gaps preventing instigation of Barramundi breeding programs presently exist. They identified and prioritised the research and steps that need to be taken to establish a sound program for genetic improvement of Barramundi farmed in Australia. Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats associated with selective breeding were analysed, a risk analysis performed and suggestions for risk management made. Barramundi genetic knowledge and constraints to Barramundi genetic improvement were reviewed. A research and development strategy, linking research topics into larger collaborative projects, was developed to address these issues. Some basic options for selective breeding were modelled and the benefit-costs compared. The models predict that even under these basic options, selective breeding would be profitable and of high benefit to the industry.
The study predicts that the continuously improved seedstock supplied by an industry wide selective breeding program for Australian Barramundi should stimulate expansion, raise profitability and improve international competitiveness of the industry.