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NOAA Sea Grant Aquaculture Research Increases Yield of Farmed Oysters

On the U.S. West Coast, shellfish aquaculture is hatchery-dependent and accounts for over 40% (worth $110 million per year) of the national bivalve harvest. Sustainability of the shellfish aquaculture industry will be challenged by competition for alternative uses of coastal regions and by the degradation of coastal and estuarine habitats. Thus, shellfish aquaculture will need to become more efficient, producing more from the same or less area than it now uses. 

NOAA Sea Grant funded scientists and extension staff set out to apply advanced biotechnology to increase the efficiency of aquaculture by increasing the yields of farmed Pacific oysters. The research team employed modern genomic technologies to discover the key genes and biochemical pathways that might serve as novel biomarkers for early detection superior hybrids. Commercial quantifies of “improved” hybrid seeds were distributed to three California farms for assessment of yield. 

The three California farms harvested substantially more oysters than they might have, using unimproved, wild seed stock. In addition to increased yield, hybrids had reduced variance in average individual weight and survival, on at least two farms; crop uniformity could be economically significant advantage of hybrid oyster seed for commercial production.


If hybrid seed were widely adopted by California shellfish growers and if annual revenues (~$14 million) were to increase proportionally, from $0.3 to $1.2 million could potentially be added to the income of California growers. For the west coast industry, with an estimated value of around $94 million, widespread use of double hybrid oysters could generate an additional $2.0 to $8.0 million in industry revenue.

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