The ocean pout (Zoarces americanus) is an eelpout in the family Zoarcidae. It is found in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of New England and eastern Canada. The fish has antifreeze proteins in its blood, giving it the ability to survive in near-freezing waters.
Scientists have done studies wherein genes are taken from the ocean pout and implanted into salmon in an attempt to make the latter grow faster. The promoter for the antifreeze protein gene is used in conjunction with the growth hormone taken from a chinook salmon, which leads to a higher concentration of the growth hormone in the blood; causing the genetically modified salmon to grow much more rapidly than it would naturally. Controversy has arisen, as some view the altered fish as a potential threat to wild salmon stocks if it escapes or is ever released into the wild, despite the fact that all of the transgenic salmon raised are sterile to prevent any chance of the modifications being spread into the wild. As it is, were one of the transgenic salmon to escape, it would be incapable of spreading its genes to another generation, lacking knowledge of a spawn point, and any ability to reproduce. The modification allows the salmon to grow year round, so that they are similar to the wild type but fully mature in two thirds of the time it takes wild type salmon. Even so Chefs and grocers in numerous US states have agreed not to sell the new fish, citing concerns over its safety for human consumption despite no evidence for risk.
In June 2006 the Unilever company announced that it would use genetically modified yeast to grow antifreeze proteins based on a gene from the ocean pout, and use it to improve the consistency and storage properties of its ice cream brands.
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