2013 Update for MBP
West Coast oyster farming is over 100 years old and Pacific oysters have been farmed since about 1918. Despite this long history, very little breeding was conducted in the past to improve oyster performance and other desirable traits. Farmers were dependent on using wild animals for production. This situation changed in the mid-1980s when a cross-breeding program was initiated with funding from USDA’s Western Regional Aquaculture Consortium (WRAC). In 1995, the Molluscan Broodstock Program (MBP) was funded as a “Special Project” (earmark) at that Hatfield Marine Science Center (HMSC) by USDA to improve yields of Pacific oysters through selection. Over the past 17 years, yields of MBP-selected oysters at grow-out sites have been improved by about 35%, mainly through improvements in survival.
Industry has amplified selected MBP top-performing families by producing large quantities of progeny (“pods”) in commercial hatcheries that are then grown at a repository until they are mature. Over the last two years, mature broodstock oysters from these pods have been used in hatcheries to produce billions of larvae that are then sold to oyster growers as “seed”. Reports from farmers indicate that the pod’s offspring perform very well to harvest size.
Congress eliminated earmarks and federal funding for MBP ended in 2012. In 2013, a consortium of oyster farmers and hatchery-operators was formed to support a scaled-down continuation of the program. The breeding and testing of MBP families will take place at both HMSC and at commercial facilities with support from industry partners, Oregon State University, Washington State University and the USDA/ARS Shellfish Genetics program at HMSC.
In 2013, it is planned to rear MBP cohort 25 (5th generation of selection) at the hatchery of Taylor Shellfish Inc., WA, and another generation of the new Kumamoto broodstock introduced from Japan will be produced at HMSC. Industry partners have offered to provide field-testing sites on Washington and Oregon farms. The cooperative venture between industry, State and Federal agencies will help ensure continual improvement of oyster stocks as well as the future economic well-being of farmers.