Bending nature to our will: Singapore scientists produce sea bass that’s healthier, easier to breed

Local fish farm Barramundi Asia has acquired a new genetic facility that aims to cross-breed Asian sea bass for selective traits such as quicker growth, disease resistance and high omega-3 content.
Barramundi Asia's chief executive Andreas von Scholten and Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory's senior principal investigator Yue Genhua (left) and chief executive Peter Chia with a pool of St John's Sea Bass at the laboratory at the National Universit
Barramundi Asia's chief executive Andreas von Scholten and Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory's senior principal investigator Yue Genhua (left) and chief executive Peter Chia with a pool of St John's Sea Bass at the laboratory at the National University of Singapore. The genetically superior Asian sea bass was produced under the selective breeding programme developed by scientists from the Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory and the Singapore Food Agency.ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Humans have been cherry-picking desirable traits in plants and animals for agricultural or ornamental reasons for millennia. This process, known as artificial selection, continues today. Environment Correspondent Audrey Tan highlights two examples from Singapore.

The Asian sea bass, also known as barramundi, has been envisioned by some fish farmers here as having the potential to be the "salmon of the tropics".

The fish not only grows well in tropical waters, but can also be cooked in various styles across different cuisines.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 01, 2020, with the headline 'Scientists here produce sea bass that's healthier, easier to breed'. Print Edition | Subscribe