48-Pound Trout: World Record or Genetic Cheat? (from Wired Science)

by admin on September 17, 2009


In an age of biotechnological juicing, not even the easygoing pastime of fishing is free from controversies over artificial enhancement.

On September 5, Saskatchewan fisherman Sean Konrad caught a 48-pound, world-record rainbow trout. The fish came from Lake Diefenbaker, where trout genetically engineered to grow extra-big escaped from a fish farm nine years ago.

The previous world record was held by Sean’s twin brother Adam, who pulled a 43-pound, 10-ounce rainbow trout from Lake Diefenbaker in 2007. That catch sparked online debate over the legitimacy of Lake Diefenbaker’s farm-born, genetically-engineered rainbows. Technically known as triploids, they’re designed with three sets of chromosomes, making them sterile and channeling energies normally spent reproducing towards growth.

In 2007, on a message board of the International Game Fish Association, the angling world’s record- and ethics-keeping body, some fishermen argued that triploids were unnatural, as divorced from the sport’s history as Barry Bonds’ home runs were from Hank Aaron’s.

The IGFA refused to make a distinction between natural and GM fish. Neither would they distinguish between species caught in their traditional waters and those introduced into new, growth-friendly environments, such as largemouth bass whose extra-large ancestors were imported from Florida to California in the 1960s.

But to purists, there was a difference between transplantation and outright manufacture.

The Konrad brothers’ response on the message board was curt: “Stop crying and start fishing.”

Now they’ve caught another record-breaking trout. Or have they?