Oyster aquaculture comprises a large and growing segment of the aquaculture industry, offering a sustainable source of protein for a growing population. The threat of climate change, however, poses a risk to the multi-billion dollar shellfish aquaculture industry. Increases in water temperature are expected to limit oyster growth and function, impact mortality rates, and increase the spread and virulence of diseases.
Pacific oysters (Crassostrea gigas) are able to tolerate a wide range of temperatures, but those sampled in Tomales Bay are much more vulnerable to seasonal temperature changes when combined with outbreaks of Ostreid herpesvirus (OsHV-1). With sea surface temperatures expected to continue increasing, it is possible that Pacific oyster mortality due to OsHV-1 may increase as well. Thus, it will be necessary for aquaculture operations to adapt to changing ocean conditions in order to protect the growth and survival of Pacific oysters.
This project will explore the potential for conditioning Pacific oysters to withstand changes in temperature and disease. Researchers will examine whether Pacific oysters become more tolerant to rising ocean temperatures after prior exposure to warmer water, and whether these elevated temperatures increase the prevalence and intensity of OsHV-1 outbreaks. Pacific oysters will then be tested in different sites of Tomales Bay to determine if the oysters conditioned to warmer water are better able to tolerate OsHV-1 outbreaks.
Resulting data can inform whether oyster conditioning is economically feasible for shellfish aquaculture facilities trying to maintain production under a changing climate.