The ABSI Shellfish Restoration and Research Hatchery’s first crop of oysters are nearly market-size. Thirty-three thousand oysters were planted onto ABSI’s open-water lease in August 2022 when they were 6 mm, and now they have nearly reached market size (75 mm) in as little as six months. These oysters have been used to supply multiple experiments related to oyster growth, physiology, tolerance, and predator response. Moving forward, these oysters will be used to supply restoration experiments investigating the survival of transplanted adults in different areas of Apalachicola Bay, the configuration and composition of restoration substrate, and the uses of cultured oysters in restoration. The hatchery team has been monitoring the growth and survival of this oyster crop closely to ensure healthy, high-quality animals for this research.
While this crop was growing on the lease, the hatchery team completed the construction of the algal systems needed to culture 6 different species of microalgae. These species will feed all life stages of shellfish produced by this facility. The algal system is a critical life-support system for shellfish production that will allow the hatchery team to grow live feed for the animals. With this system in place, the team will be able to increase the growth and survival of larvae in the hatchery.
Furthermore, the hatchery will continue research and oyster production for ABSI restoration experiments. Planned experiments include investigations of conditioning adult oysters to facilitate out-of-season spawning. The ability to produce larvae outside of the normal spawning season will allow hatchery staff to supply spat for research all year long. Additionally, the hatchery is conducting an experiment on the settlement behavior of larvae and whether the presence of cultured oysters may facilitate increased settlement on alternative substrates. The results from this experiment will contribute to potential restoration strategies.