Breeding programs on Atlantic salmon in Norway: lessons learned

An early establishment of selective breeding programs on Atlantic salmon has been crucial for the success of developing efficient and sustainable salmon farming in Norway. A national selective breeding program was initiated by AKVAFORSK at the beginning of the 1970s, by collecting fertilized eggs from more than 40 Norwegian river populations. Several private selective breeding programs were also initiated in the 1970s and 1980s. While these private programs were initiated using individual selection (i.e. massselection) to genetically improve growth, the national program was designed to gradually include all economically important traits in the breeding objective (i.e. growth, age at sexual maturation, disease resistance and quality traits) using a combined family and within-family selection strategy. Independent of which selection strategy and program design used, it is important to secure and maintain a broad genetic variation in the breeding populations to maximize selection response. It has been documented that genetically improved salmon from the national selective breeding program grow twice as fast as wild Atlantic salmon and require 25 per cent less feed, while salmon representing the private breeding programs all show an intermediate growth performance. As a result of efficient dissemination of genetically improved Atlantic salmon, the Norwegian salmon farming industry has reduced its feed costs by more than US$ 230 million per year! The national selective breeding program on Atlantic salmon was commercialized into a breeding company (AquaGen) in 1992. Five years later, several private companies and the AKVAFORSK Genetics Center (AFGC) established a second breeding company (SalmoBreed) using breeding candidates from one of the private breeding programs. These two breeding companies have similar products, but different strategies on how to organize the breeding program and to disseminate the genetically improved seed to the Norwegian salmon industry. Greater competition has increased the necessity to document the genetic gain obtained from the different programs and to market the economic benefits of farming the genetically improved breeds. Both breeding companies have organized their dissemination to get a sufficient share of the economic benefits in order to sustain and improve their breeding programs.


Thodesen, J., Gjedrem, T. (2006)
p. 22-26. In: Ponzoni, R.W. ; Acosta, B.O. ; Ponniah, A.G. (eds.) Development of aquatic animal genetic improvement and dissemination programs: current status and action plans. WorldFish Center Conference Proceedings 73. Penang, Malaysia. 120 p.