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Impacts of aquaculture operations on the genetic health of natural populations of the Eastern Oyster, Crassostrea virginica



Oyster farmers currently rely on wild-caught seed to stock their aquaculture sites. The number and quality of seed, however, is highly variable from year-to-year and juvenile oysters must often be sold and transported from regions with a high seed set (abundance) to regions with a poor seed set. To address this issue, a commercial-scale hatchery in New Brunswick is currently being developed to provide adequate spat (oyster seed) to oyster farms within the Maritimes. The potential impact of hatchery-spawned oysters, as well as transplanted wild-caught spat, on the genetic integrity of neighboring wild oyster beds greatly depends on the factors underlying the genetic structure of natural populations. Conversely, the health and vigour of cultured oysters depends on the quality of available spat, whether from wild-caught sources or hatchery production.

This research project will evaluate the genetic sequence of natural oyster populations through the creation of a high-density linkage map for the molecular markers associated with functional diversity in the Eastern Oyster. This information will allow for both a better assessment of the genetic health of C. virginica populations in the Maritimes, and for the establishment of hatchery-based breeding programs. Additionally, this project will examine genetic diversity between populations of the Eastern Oyster, identify functional diversity in terms of health indicators such as condition index, growth, survival and reproduction, and evaluate the potential impacts of gene flow between wild and cultivated oyster populations.

This project supports the optimal fish health management objective of the Aquaculture Collaborative Research and Development Program (ACRDP), pertaining to the 2013-14 national ACRDP priority to maintain healthy shellfish populations through the development of stocks resilient or resistant to diseases.

Program Name

Aquaculture Collaborative Research and Development Program (ACRDP)


2013 - 2017


Atlantic: Gulf of Maine, Scotian Shelf

Principal Investigator(s)

Mark LaFlamme

Collaborative Partner(s)

L’Étang Ruisseau Bar Ltd.

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