A Griffith University scientist has revealed plans to potentially save the struggling Queensland oyster industry.
With the pressure of supplying sustainable food to a growing population, Dr Carmel McDougall of Griffith’s Australian Rivers Institute has plans to revolutionise aquaculture by developing a new species of edible oyster.
Dr McDougall has a history of working with oysters and, more specifically, with pearl development. Now she has set her sights on feeding the masses by developing a disease-resistant species known as the Blacklip Oyster.
This species can be used to replace the Sydney Rock Oyster which is extremely susceptible to QX disease, making it difficult to farm.
The Blacklip Oyster has a much faster growth rate than the Sydney Rock Oyster which helps farmers to distribute their product more quickly.
Being a tropical species it will also open up Queensland’s northern coastlines to the potential of oyster farming.
Oyster aquaculture in Queensland has been in a downward spiral for a few decades now, primarily due to disease.
This had made it almost impossible for oysters to be farmed here.
“Oysters are one of the most environmentally friendly species to farm, and if we can figure out how to produce the Blacklip efficiently in the hatchery this could be a massive boost for sustainable aquaculture in Queensland,” Dr McDougall said.
Dr McDougall intends to approach this problem using her molecular genetics experience.
Aquaculture is a multi-million dollar industry which is expanding at a rapid pace around the world.
The experiment, which is part of an Advance Queensland Fellowship, got underway recently with the start of the spawning season.
This is when the first batch of Blacklip Oysters is grown in Hervey Bay, in association with Aquafarms Queensland.
Despite Dr McDougall’s own distaste for oysters, she assures people those who love to indulge in them will find the Blacklip Oyster just as tasty as its forbearer.
Image: Dr Carmel McDougall
This story was previously published in Leading Agriculture Magazine – Issue 26.