Arctic Charr Breeding

The Icelandic Arctic charr breeding programme was initiated in 1989 based on individuals from 13 different Icelandic populations and is running since. The first selected cohort was generated in 1993 and we are currently housing fish selected for up to 9 generations. The breeding station is situated in Hólar, Iceland and run by Hólar University.

In the past, fish have been selected for increased growth rate using both between- and within-family selection and for late sexual maturation using between-family selection. Recently, late sexual maturation is also selected for using within family selection.

More recently, fish are additionally selected against high early deformity rates (expressed at first feeding and after the first few months) and against high late deformity rates (expressed at the age of 2 years) and against low survival rates until the age of 2 years.

We are currently investigating whether we can increase egg quality traits, such as egg size and egg survival rate. These traits may be influnced by either, or a mix of, environmental effects (growing conditions and practices), direct genetic effects (genetic effects inherited from both parents that affect egg quality traits), or by maternal genetic effects (direct genetic effects of both grandparents on maternal traits whose expression in the mother affect egg quality traits of her eggs).

In addition, we are currently conducting research on how to implement a feasible quantification method that allows selecting for increased resistance to bacteria that cause furunculosis.

We have now first results about why body deformity rates are elevated in only some cohorts and under only some environmental conditions. Preliminary results indicate that early expressed body deformities (at first feeding and a few months thereafter) are determined by maternal genetic effects and that later expressed body deformities (at the age of 2 years) are determined by direct genetic effects. Both early and late expressed deformities additionally show large among-family variation. It appears that having included only few breeders with extremely high maternal breeding values for early deformity rates in specific cohorts of the breeding programme have cause peaks in deformity rates 1-2 generations later. Fortunetely, genetic variation for deformity rate appears not to be related to genetic variation for growth rate, so that select against high deformity rates at either age is unlikely to compromise selection for higher growth rate. We still do not understand why the later expressed body deformities vary among growing conditions in some cohorts. To understand variation among growing conditions, we had send out a short online questionaire to 10 Icelandic producers utilising our eggs. However, the participation was, unfortunately, quite low and did not yield any useful insight into environmental variation.

This page may receive updates from time to time.