Rutgers University has been breeding Eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica Gmelin) since 1960. The breeding program was established by the late Dr. Harold Haskin soon after the outbreaks of MSX disease that is caused by the protist Haplosporidium nelsoni. Rutgers oyster strains have shown strong resistance to MSX and moderate resistance to Dermo, a disease caused by protist Perkinsus marinus (Guo et al., 2008). In 1994, Rutgers scientists developed tetraploid oysters (with 4 sets of chromosomes) and a new type of triploid oysters (with 3 sets of chromosomes) by crossing diploid and tetraploid oysters. Because of their sterility, superior growth, and improved summer meat quality, triploid oysters have become an important part of the oyster aquaculture industry worldwide.
Rutgers Oyster Breeding Program targets four traits of aquacultural importance: disease resistance, growth, shell shape and general hardiness. For each generation, the largest oysters with nice shell shape that survived three years of exposure to MSX, Dermo and harsh intertidal conditions are selected to produce the next generation. Genetic diversity, which is critical for oyster breeding and performance, is maintained through progressive rotational crossing of multiple lines and by controlled introduction of new genetic material. Two disease-resistant strains have been released to the oyster industry: 1) Haskin NEH® strain, which is derived from Long Island Sound populations and shows improved growth and survival throughout the Northeastern region; and 2) Haskin DBX strain that is derived from Delaware Bay populations and shows improved disease resistance and tolerance for medium and low salinity environments of lower Delaware Bay.
Disease-resistant oyster seed for the two strains are available in both diploid and triploid forms through the New Jersey Aquaculture Innovation Center (AIC) and licensed hatcheries. Diploid and tetraploid broodstock from the two strains are available to commercial hatcheries for seed production (contact Rutgers OTC for licensing). Crossing Rutgers strains with local varieties is often used by commercial hatcheries to produce oyster seed that show disease resistance and hybrid vigor, and do well in local environments.
Bay scallops (Argopecten irradians) is native to the Atlantic coast of the United States of America. It has a sweet tender adductor muscle that is much liked by seafood lovers. Bay scallops grow fast and present a great candidate for aquaculture. The species has been introduced to China and has become the most important scallops cultured there. Interests in scallop farming in the US is growing but limited by over-winter mortalities and shortage of seed.
In a project funded by NOAA Sea Grant, Haskin Shellfish Research Laboratory began experimenting bay scallop production and breeding bay scallops for fast growth. The project shows that when produced early in the year, bay scallops can reach a marketable size of about 50 mm by December, in Barnegat Bay, NJ.
The project has been selecting bay scallops for fast growth with the goal of making more scallops reach market size within a year. Seed from the selected lines are available to farmers through the New Jersey Aquaculture Innovation Center (AIC). Small seed of 2-3 mm may become available in late April or early May, and large seed (3-5 mm and >5 mm) may be available in late May through July. Please contact us for availability and price.
Bay scallop seed (>5 mm) can be cultured in oyster bags (4 mm mesh) in submerged cages at an initial density of 500/bag in July, which should be thinned to 200-300 within a month.
The surfclam (Spisula solidissima) is a large, fast-growing clam species found along the continental shelf of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern US. This clam has shown potential for success as a farmed species, in New Jersey and on farms throughout the Northeast. It is easily spawned, has rapid early growth rates, and has the potential to be reach marketable sizes within 12 to 18 months of farm growout in systems without substrate. These characteristics exemplify the excellent potential for this species to be grown in intensive culture. The HSRL breeding program has been investigating the potential to produce selected lines of broodstock that demonstrate improved survival under higher water temperatures that may be experienced on shallow water farms. Seed from the breeding program is available to farmers through the New Jersey Aquaculture Innovation Center (AIC). Please check with us for availability and price. Advice for farmers interested in growing surfclams can be found here.