Olin Pilcher at the new commercial oyster facility; two different families of Pacific oyster; and the algae ponds (images: A. Ballance)
Tucked in behind the Nelson boulder bank, where it can take full advantage of an easy supply of clean seawater from Tasman Bay, and plentiful Nelson sunshine, the Cawthron Institute hatchery has been breeding Pacific oysters for many years. But now the oyster hatchery is going big time, scaling up from research scale to commercial production. By the time they hit full capacity they hope to be producing 50 million healthy baby oysters a year for the aquaculture industry. The Pacific oyster industry currently produces about 45 million oysters a year, and a year-round supply of commercially bred spat could see production rise to about 120 million oysters.
Olin Pilcher takes Alison Ballance on a tour of the hatchery, and introduces her to the process of producing oyster spat. Our Changing World has previously featured the mussel breeding programme at the Cawthron Institute, and their biofuel algae breeding project.
Upweller units for growing oyster spat; gravel-sized oyster spat; Olin Pilcher with oyster spat (images: A. Ballance)