Global fish stocks are decreasing due to overfishing. In parallel, the demand for fish continues to rise globally, driven by increasing public awareness of its health benefits. This situation is not sustainable in the long term.
Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory (TLL) has partnered with several agencies, such as the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore, to deploy sustainable aquaculture, which plays an important role in contributing to food security. This involves the cultivation of fish with good feed conversion ratios in a commercially viable and ecologically friendly way.
To that end, two collaborating teams at TLL, led by both Prof Laszlo Orban and Dr Yue Gen Hua respectively, collected genetically diverse varieties of Asian seabass (barramundi) for the purpose of selective breeding. This process does not involve genetic modification; the strongest and healthiest are chosen from among the offspring of mass-crossed parents through the use of cutting-edge molecular technologies. Using this approach, the scientists look to improve growth rate and disease resistance, as well as maximise levels of omega-3 fatty acids, relative to those of fish grown by other farming practices.
In November 2013, a delegation led by National Development Minister, Khaw Boon Wan, visited TLL to witness a modular pilot scale automated Recirculating Aquaculture System, which can potentially supply over eight million kg of food fish per year. This would be sufficient to provide for half a million people, using a small land footprint equivalent to four blocks of HDB flats.
“It is important that research ultimately leads to economic and societal benefits,” said Prof Orban. “As a result of this process, safer and higher quality seafood can be made available to consumers at an affordable price.”