Port Of San Diego To Test Bay For Future Oyster Aquafarms

December 12, 2016

The Port of San Diego has announced that it is working on an Oyster Nursery Research Project as part of efforts to explore new aquaculture and blue technology opportunities. Small amounts of oysters will be grown in a controlled environment in San Diego Bay to test them against health standards. This is the first of six local sites where oysters will be grown for this research to see if there is a potential for future aquafarming.

"There is incredible opportunity in the emerging field of aquaculture, and the Port of San Diego is seizing this opportunity to promote a core part of our mission - advance the Blue Economy," said Chairman Marshall Merrifield of the Board of Port Commissioners. "We are growing oysters in the San Diego Bay as our first initiative, and exploring possibilities with the goal of serving as a champion and catalyst for new business ventures in this exciting field."

Chairman Marshall Merrifield of the Board of
Port Commissioners and Paula Sylvia, Program Manager,
Aquaculture & Blue Tech Team, pull up a
basket of juvenile oysters.
Aquaculture is an emerging business line that could help support the Port’s mission as a steward of fisheries, advance science and create jobs. The U.S. imports 91 percent of the seafood that is consumed, of which 50 percent is farmed, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The vast majority of farmed seafood comes from Asian countries but there is an opportunity for increased domestic supply.

The Port has identified oyster nurseries as a potential aquaculture use in San Diego Bay and has initiated a project to grow small amounts of oysters in a controlled environment to test them against health standards. An oyster nursery would grow oysters from seeds the size of pepper flakes to juveniles the size of quarters. The juveniles would then be shipped to oyster farms elsewhere to be grown to market readiness. The Port has several competitive advantages with regard to oyster nursery projects including a warm climate that facilitates a shorter growth cycle, as well as proximity to West Coast hatcheries and oyster farms that could serve as a market for juvenile oysters.

The first of six oyster test sites around San Diego Bay was established this month. Each site will have oysters growing to the juvenile stage in enclosed molded plastic baskets. Next steps include testing of water quality and the health of both the basket-raised oysters and wild oysters in the bay. This data will inform decisions about where oyster growing might be feasible in the future. The goal is to establish a health record that makes San Diego Bay permit-ready for future oyster nursery projects.

In the first quarter of 2017, Port staff will provide an update to the Board of Port Commissioners on preliminary findings and status of the oyster research.