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Benchmark Genetics will help the smolt company Nekton to avoid early maturation

Last week, Smøla-based Nekton Settefisk received a batch of 1.5 million All-Female salmon ova from StofnFiskur, which will help the smolt company to avoid early salmon maturation at sea. This is probably the first batch of eggs of this type, which has been delivered to a full-scale production in the sea in Norway.

We have long experience in producing All-Female eggs in Iceland. The ova that was delivered to Nekton are genetically improved for several disease resistance traits, and are labeled QTL-IPN, GS-PD and QTL-CMS.

The main advantage of our All-Female product is eliminating production setbacks arising from early maturation of males. This product is an ideal solution for farmers having the entire production period from ova to harvest in land-based RAS-facilities, that have higher rearing temperatures than 15°C. With this product, our customers are only receiving female eggs.

Female salmon do not, as you know, have the same challenges with early sexual maturation as male fish, which can mature both as precocious males, post smolt or in the early sea phase. The early maturation in farmed salmon inhibits growth, reduces product quality, increases the risk of diseases and reduces fish welfare. In summary, this can result in a large fish loss. Compared to mixed groups of males and females, our All-Female product is expected to have less variation in size, which means less frequent sorting both in fresh water and at sea.

All Female Nekton Smola

All-famale ova from StofnFiskur

Nekton production challenges

Nekton plans to produce both 0-year-old and 1.5-year-old smolt from salmon eggs they have received from Benchmark Genetics. They will keep some for themselves, but a significant group of smolt will also be sold to external companies.

Nekton wants to try All-Female eggs to see if it can reduce the incidences of early sexual maturation in their production. Maria Sørøy, quality manager at Nekton, believes that also from a fish welfare point of view, it is a great advantage that the fish avoid early sexual maturation at sea.

The batch with All-Female eggs, delivered from Iceland, will be closely monitored through the egg, smolt and sea phase for the most important production parameters and will be compared with traditional ova from groups with mixed sexes.

- We are excited to see how this group performs, Maria says.

Maria Soroy Og Ingrid Strand E1576148445837

Maria Sørøy, Nekton quality manager and Ingrid Strand, responsible for hatchery Nekton Settefisk Aunvågen. Photo from Nekton

This All-Female production has mainly been dedicated to the emerging land-based industry abroad, where the fish will be raised the entire life cycle on land in RAS systems. The producers using these systems have experienced a lot of early sexual maturation before All-Female ova were used. Regarding other production challenges, so far, land-based producers have not faced the same disease challenges as traditional cage farming at sea, Benchmark Genetics writes, adding that therefore there was no need for such advanced genetic products that farmers in Norway have been asking for in recent years.

From this autumn, Benchmark Genetics has available milt from so-called neo-males with a number of genetic characteristics adapted to aquaculture.

We have built a Cryolab in Iceland, in connection with our breeding and incubation center, where we can freeze and store larger quantities of neo-milt, genetically improved for several different traits and thus produce All-Female eggs of specific genetic quality all year-round.

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"We have stored milt available and wait for more during next summer. Then we will be able to produce tens of millions of All-Female eggs intended for Norwegian producers." Thommy Holmvåg, Regional Manager Sales Mid / North, Benchmark Genetics in Norway.
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