Oyster Aquaculture

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Enhancing the rapidly emerging oyster aquaculture industry in New Hampshire

Raymond Grizzle, Biological Sciences, UNH (603-862-5130); and David Berlinsky, Biological Sciences, UNH (603-862-0007)

Intensive aquaculture of Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) is practiced in many New England states involving hatchery-produced oyster spat (seed), nursery systems, and deployment of "growout" (culture until harvest) gear. The specific flavor of oysters is influenced by their growing environment and consumption of oysters "on the half shell" has increased dramatically, due to the local food movement and the farm to restaurant trend. Locally, there are strong and established markets and three oyster bars are opening this year in Portsmouth, N.H., alone. The success of this growing industry is dependent on research to determine practical, site-specific methodologies to improve oyster growth and survival.

Grizzle and Berlinsky's goal is to strengthen the burgeoning oyster farming industry in New Hampshire by improving culture techniques and disseminating the new information to growers and other stakeholders. They will address four objectives, including developing methods to increase oyster growth and survival at growout sites, determining the effects of location (site) on upweller performance for oyster seed production, conducting a comparative assessment of growth and survival for oyster seed from different broodstocks, and disseminating knowledge gained from the project to oyster farmers and other stakeholders. The general hypothesis that will be tested is that water flow in combination with food concentration (i.e., food flux rates) relative to oyster biomass (size and stocking density) largely controls oyster growth. Experiments at growout sites will determine how variations in gear deployment methods affect food fluxes and oyster growth, with the overall goal of reducing growout time to less than three years. Experiments at potential nursery sites will test the effects of site (location) on growth of oysters in upwellers, with the overall goal of identifying site characteristics that result in fastest oyster seed growth. The resulting new knowledge will be disseminated to oyster farmers and other stakeholders at a workshop to be held at the conclusion of the project, and in a "growers manual" that will be distributed online.