ABC exists for the continuous improvement of oyster aquaculture through the manipulation and control of the genetics and culture of the oyster. These improvements, through application of cutting-edge research, have regional impact and worldwide application. We address the requirements of industry for a more-profitable enterprise by running a breeding and applied-research program, which comprises a research hatchery, labs, and farms that are staffed with technicians, students, and trainees.
The oyster breeding program in the Aquaculture Genetics and Breeding Technology Center (ABC) began in 1997 following an initiative by the Virginia General Assembly. The initiative stemmed from the need to address the endemic problems of MSX and Dermo disease in oysters and the concomitant decline in natural fisheries. From the outset, two potential solutions were available—creating domesticated lines of oysters to withstand the two diseases, or introducing new species of disease-resistant oysters. Research to evaluate and advance these two solutions have been the centerpiece of ABC's program, and have led to the building blocks of an aquaculture industry—animals that not only survive but thrive in diseased waters under commercial culture conditions. Industry growth has followed.
Today, ABC houses the single most extensive breeding program for oysters in the U.S., and arguably, the largest in the world. The Virginia oyster aquaculture industry is ripe with promise. Annual seed sales are nearing 50 million and demand for eyed larvae has increased from 30 million in 2003 to about 1.9 billion in 2008.