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24, chemin de Borde Rouge –Auzeville – CS52627
31326 Castanet Tolosan CEDEX - France

Dernière mise à jour : Mai 2018

Menu Logo Principal AgroParisTech Université Paris-Saclay


GABI : Génétique Animale et Biologie IntégrativeUnité Mixte de Recherche INRA - AgroParisTech

Genetic selection leads to more efficient sea bass

To support the development necessary for aquaculture production, it is necessary to have a more efficient production, with fish consuming less feeds and producing less waste.

MOTS-CLES : aquaculture ; genetic improvement; efficiency

Installation d’élevage individuel de bars à Ifremer Palavas-les-Flots.  Photo : M. Vandeputte

Installation d’élevage individuel de bars à Ifremer Palavas-les-Flots. Photo : M. Vandeputte

Selection for food efficiency is a challenge in fish, for which it is impossible to measure individual feed intake on a normal farm. With a new method combining breeding in individual aquariums and genomic selection developed as part of the European project EMBRIC, we have shown that such selection may become possible in sea bass, a major aquaculture species in the Mediterranean. The validation of the method on other species and populations is currently underway as part of two new European projects (PerformFish, AquaIMPACT).


Aquaculture is one of the fastest growing livestock products in the world and is the only way to meet the increasing demand for aquatic products due to the depletion of fish stocks in the oceans. Feed efficiency, which measures the yield of the transformation of feed in fish, is a key factor to a sustainable development on economic (better profitability), ecologic (decrease of intrants and biological waste) and social (reduction of animal feed competition/human food) levels. Life Cycle Assessment studies show the paramount importance of improving feed efficiency to reduce the overall impacts of fish farming (Besson et al., 2016, 2017).

Genetic selection is a potentially important lever for the improvement of feed efficiency, but it has not been applied to fish for the following reasons 1) the absence of a method to measure individual food intake in fish raised in groups and 2) the absence of indirect selection criteria that can be used in practice.

As part of the H2020 EMBRIC project (2015-2019), we tested in sea bass, a major Mediterranean aquaculture species, a method that combines individual phentoyping for feed efficiency in fish isolated in aquariums and genomic selection to improve feed efficiency in this species.

After phentoyping and genotyping 400 sea bass in individual aquariums at Ifremer of Palavas, we showed that individual feed efficiency had a high variability and high heritability (0.47), proof of an efficient genetic selection. We also showed that individual performance in part predicted the group performance (under normal breeding conditions), which is an important trait. In fact, we found a criteria easier to measure and which was also highly heritable: growth in an aquarium under restricted feeding, which was highly genetically correlated to feed efficiency (0.98). Finally, we showed that genomic selection based on a reference population of 360 individuals provides an accuracy that is already usable in practice for genetic evaluation, although more individuals could still improve it.

Based on these results, we were able to finance a similar experiment on the sea bream as part of the PerformFish H2020 project, in partnership with the main French breeder of this species, La Ferme Marine du Douhet and with the Syndicat des Sélectionneurs Avicoles et Aquacoles Français (Sysaaf), in order to test the genericity of the approach. This study is currently underway.

Sea bass lines selected for individual food efficiency have been developed at Ifremer of Palavas, our key partner in this project. These lines will be evaluated in 2020 as part of the H2020 AquaIMPACT project, in order to validate the transgenerational method.

Finally, Ifremer, the Sysaaf and the Ecloserie Marine de Gravelines (EMG) obtained an Innovation FEAMP project (Selfie, 2019-2022) to test the feasabibility of the method on the sea bass population in EMG selection.

The prospects therefore include both a validation on other species and populations, and the beginning of a transfer to fish selection operators.


Scientific Contact(s):

Associated Division(s): Animal Genetics

Associated research center(s): Jouy-en-josas



INRA document on Diverse and multiperformance agriculture priorities

#3Perf-2: using biology and technology techniques for multiperformance

See also


  • Communications given as part of French and European professional conferences:
    • Besson M., Allal F., Vergnet A., Clota F., Vandeputte M., 2019. Améliorer l’efficacité alimentaire des poissons en utilisant une nouvelle méthode de phénotypage en aquarium individuel. 6ièmes Journées Recherche Filière Piscicole, Paris, 2-3 juillet 2019 (oral).
  • 2 new H2020 projects:
    • PerformFish (Integrating Innovative Approaches for Competitive and Sustainable Performance across the Mediterranean Aquaculture Value Chain, 2017-2021)
    • AquaIMPACT (Genomic and Nutritional Innovations for Genetically Superior Farmed Fish, 2019-2023)

Besson M., Allal F., Chatain B., Vergnet A., Clota F., Vandeputte M., 2019. Combining individual phenotypes of feed intake and genomic data to improve feed efficiency in sea bass. Frontiers in Genetics 10: 219