Aquaculture Center

Director: [[jamoss, Jessica A. Small]]


Scientists in VIMS' Aquaculture Genetics and Breeding Technology Center (ABC) use a combination of selective breeding and genetic research to help restore declining populations of ecologically and commercially important marine species, and to help the aquaculture industry meet humanity's growing appetite for seafood. ABC was established at VIMS in 1997. READ MORE about ABC's history and mission.

The focus of ABC's restoration efforts is a long-term program to develop disease-tolerant strains of Crassostrea virginica, the native oyster whose population in Chesapeake Bay has been devastated by the diseases MSX and Dermo. ABC's genetics group is developing "markers" for finding the regions of the oyster's DNA that confer disease tolerance. Colleagues in ABC's breeding program use these markers to distinguish oysters with desired genes, guiding them to more efficient crosses. Knowledge of oyster genetics also sheds light on the genetics of other shellfish, benefiting breeding programs for clams and scallops.

ABC is also actively involved in research to evaluate the risks and benefits of using non-native species to help restore Virginia's ailing oyster industry. Recent efforts have focused on the Asian oyster Crassostrea ariakensis. Experiments with small, sterilized populations of this oyster show that it grows faster and is more disease tolerant than the native oyster Crassostrea virginica—while tasting just as good. These promising results are balanced by the potential ecological risks posed by introducing a non-native species. A November 2001 position statement describes VIMS' stance on the use of C. ariakensis in Chesapeake Bay.