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Georgia Overcoming Constraints to the Development of a Sustainable Eastern Oyster, Crassostrea virginica, Aquaculture Industry in Georgia Principal Investigator: Alan Power ABSTRACT Our goal is to develop, test and demonstrate the biological and technical procedures for culturing the eastern oyster Crassostrea virginica in the coastal waters of Georgia. This work is proposed to determine the feasibility of alternative molluscan shellfish species production and to educate shellfish producers as to the resource requirements and management practices. It is believed that oyster aquaculture and associated marketing efforts have tremendous potential in Georgia and in the southeastern United States in general. Currently, hard clam (Mercenaria mercenaria) culture is Georgia’s only growing fishery. Oyster culture will provide for diversification and improve farm income. The cupped oysters comprising the Crassostrea and Saccostrea genera are the most widely cultivated and important commercial species in the world. Our hypothesis is that oysters acquired through natural spat settlement can be reared to a harvestable size by using off-bottom culture methods employed by fishermen growing related intertidal oysters in other countries. Based upon the results of growth and survival for oysters of a master thesis on oyster habitat restoration, oysters can be grown off bottom to a commercial size, 76 mm (3 inches) in 9 to 10 months and can be available for the winter oyster roast season in Georgia. By harvesting oysters within one year, the oyster industry can avoid the problems currently plaguing the industry of death of two year old oysters by fouling of single oysters by heavy oyster spat recruitment in the second summer. This project will determine the optimal oyster culture system for coastal Georgia conditions and will use industry representatives to evaluate its commercial viability by conducting pilot scale trials on working shellfish leases.
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