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Can probiotics improve Pacific oyster production?

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
26 March 2021, at 10:09am

Trials to use probiotics to combat bacterial shellfish pathogens in commercial Pacific oyster hatcheries are due to launch in Ireland and the US.

Diane Kapareiko, a microbiologist at NOAA's Milford Laboratory
Diane Kapareiko, a microbiologist at NOAA's Milford Laboratory

Bacterial disease in commercial oyster hatcheries is a major cause of larval mortalities, a major constraint in oyster production. Environmentally-friendly methods for controlling microbial pathogenesis with probiotic bacteria are becoming increasingly preferred over repeated use of antibiotics, which can select for resistant pathogens in the environment.

NOAA’s Milford Laboratory in Connecticut has discovered and developed a benign strain of Vibrio alginolyticus isolated from the digestive glands of oysters, to manage bacterial shellfish pathogens in commercial hatcheries and improve larval survival of the eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica).

Their research has shown that adding the probiotic, called OY15, every other day as a supplement to their algal feed can improve survival and disease resistance of eastern oyster larvae by 20-35 percent when challenged with a known shellfish pathogen.

NOAA’s Milford Laboratory recently secured a 2021 ICAF grant to allow hatchery-scale trials of bacterial probiotic strain OY15 on larvae of Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas). The aim will be to examine if beneficial probiotic effects of OY15 on survival of eastern oyster larvae can also be conferred to Pacific oysters.

Commercial trials will be conducted at two partnering hatcheries, located in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States, Taylor Shellfish Farms and Pacific Hybreed, and Carton Point Shellfish, a commercial shellfish and macroalgae hatchery located on the west coast of Ireland.

Three-week-old eastern oyster spat attached to a substrate
Three-week-old eastern oyster spat attached to a substrate

The freeze-dried formulation of probiotic strain OY15 for the NOAA study is being supplied by Prospective Research*.

The company’s founders, Dakota Hamill and Jake Cotter, participated in Ireland’s first Aquaculture Accelerator programme, which was run by Hatch in Cork in 2018 and supported by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s Seafood Development Agency .

The aim of the intensive three-month programme, funded under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, was to upscale early-stage entrepreneurs with aquaculture innovations.

“It is hugely encouraging to see the resulting relationships and networks formed during the 2018 Aquaculture Accelerator assist with facilitating this exciting collaboration,” commented BIM’s Catherine Butler.

*Prospective Research is also part of Hatch's portfolio, but The Fish Site retains editorial independence.