Integrating Innovative Approaches for Competitive and Sustainable Performance across the Mediterranean Aquaculture Value Chain

Advancing Towards a Better Sea Bass and Sea Bream Juvenile Quality and Growth Potential

Work package 2 of PerformFISH focuses on improving juvenile quality and growth potential of sea bass and sea bream. This work package is closely connected to industry as a large proportion of its activities involve samples from European sea bream and gilthead sea bass hatcheries.

So far, the team has analysed the larval production cycle focussing on traits of interest for production such as skeletal malformation, growth, health, and immunity. The goal is to develop a tool that enables practitioners to predict the production quality and performance at the grow-on stage. In the hatchery, production quality is classified using either growth at mid-metamorphosis or the incidence of skeletal malformations.

Biological specimens for analysis were sampled from hatcheries following good practice (98/58/EC, protection of animals kept for farming) and most of the collaborating hatcheries have GLOBAL G.A.P. (Good Agricultural Practice) Certification, which means their production procedures have good standards of welfare.

In addition to collecting biological samples, detailed zootechnical monitoring has been carried out for all the production batches that were sampled. Scientists from the University of Thessaly (UTH), Centro de Ciências do Mar (CCMAR), University of Crete (UoC) and the University of Udine (UNIUD) have been analysing the collected larvae using histology and histopathology, whole mount skeletal staining and biochemical and molecular techniques.

The next step is to cross-reference production quality using multiple indicators linked to quality with the production regime. Preliminary analysis has already revealed that, by cross referencing skeletal malformation with production conditions, the approach can separate hatchery-specific and general production factors that may be linked to production quality. The team will work to cross- reference the more than 30 molecular markers that have been analysed with the zootechnical production conditions and identify molecular markers that can be incorporated into an analytical system for monitoring production quality and future performance. For more information, check D2.1