Researchers find new selective-breeding method for heat-tolerant abalone without genetic modification

Park Sae-jin Reporter() | Posted : May 29, 2020, 12:39 | Updated : May 29, 2020, 12:39

[Courtesy of the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries]

SEOUL -- Abalone is vulnerable to heat, making it difficult to farm the premium food ingredient in summer. Without genetic modification, a state-run research institute in South Korea has found a new method to selectively breed abalone that is heat-tolerant.

More than 7,500 tons of abalone are consumed annually in South Korea. However, it's not easy for abalone farmers to keep their prized product alive during summer as the shellfish die easily when the sea temperature rises above 32 degrees Celsius (89.6 degrees Fahrenheit). To increase the production of abalone by increasing survivability in warm water temperatures, some farmers in China and other countries use genetic modification.

Temperatures of the sea around the Korean peninsula showed abnormality due to global warming, rising on an average of 0.44 degrees Celsius every year over the last decade, according to the Korea Meteorological Administration. Abalone farmers lost more than 13.6 billion won ($10 million) in 2018 due to high sea temperatures.

The National Institute of Fisheries Science (NIFS), a scientific body operated by the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, said in a statement that it has found a selective breeding method that involves no genetic engineering by using genetic markers. The institute will commercialize the method after a pilot project at actual abalone farms.

"With the recent trend of rising sea temperature, the future of abalone farms depends on developing breeds that can survive in places where the water temperature varies greatly," NIFS researcher Nam Bo-hye was quoted as saying.

Based on the institute's 2014 finding that a certain breed of abalone is capable of staying alive in seas warmer than 32 degrees Celsius, NIFS researchers have analyzed genetic characteristics, which are genetic markers, of the more heat-tolerant breed. Abalone farmers can check genetic markers to sort out the heat-tolerant breed in a simple and quick manner.
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