Together with prof. Fopp-Bayat, the team of awarded researchers also includes dr hab. Mirosław Szczepkowski from the Inland Fisheries Institute in Olsztyn and mgr inż. Marek Szczukowski from the Fish Farm in Ruś.
The Marshal presented this award to the team for conducting research related to sturgeon fish, with practical applications. Poland is currently the European leader in the production of caviar and, in terms of sturgeon meat production, it ranks third (fourth) on the continent.
Prof. Fopp-Bayat specialises in fish genetics, especially with regard to sturgeons. She is interested in the biology of fish reproduction. Her greatest research success was the breeding of the offspring of a Siberian sturgeon with exclusively the maternal genome, which was bred until the stage of sexual maturity. This experimental stock is probably the only such stock in the world. She also conducted experimental research into the biology of sterlet reproduction. The main aim of this research was to identify the chromosomal sex-determination system of this species. As the first in the world, the professor confirmed that females are the heterogametic sex in the sterlet and the Siberian sturgeon.
Her research on the genetic characteristics of spawners, which can be used to create breeding stock, proved particularly important and innovative. She developed genetic profiles of females and males, thus allowing the selection of spawners in optimal spawning pairs. With this selection, offspring with the desired genetic variability and favourable breeding characteristics can be hatched. Why is this so important?
“Currently, sturgeons in the natural environment are in danger of extinction. The eggs and caviar are obtained exclusively from fish kept under artificial conditions. The sterlet reaches sexual maturity at the age of 5-6 years, the Siberian sturgeon at the age of 7 years and the beluga sturgeon – at the age of 18! This is very long. Our research focuses on optimising the reproduction and breeding of these fish. Although we can spawn them under artificial conditions and breed the fry until maturity, the ratio of females to males in sturgeon stocks is 1 to 1. In caviar production, females are more important, so breeding large numbers of males is not economically viable. We already know how to select them using ultrasound and biopsy, but it is a demanding task, requiring the examination of every fish,” explains prof. Fopp-Bayat.
As a result of her scientific research related to genetic engineering, it is already possible to breed almost all females from sturgeon eggs under laboratory conditions. Now the team she supervises is working on how to apply genetic engineering methods in practice so that the females can hatch in breeding stocks and reach reproductive age.