Oyster production in Connecticut historically has had large fluctuations due to two major factors: disease epizootics caused by a protozoan parasite multinucleate sphere X (Haplosporidium nelsoni), and long periods without successful natural sets. A field trial was performed to investigate whether the remote set of oysters can be used to restock natural beds during mortalities caused by disease epizootics and lack of recruitment due to periods without sets. Disease-resistant oysters were remote set in a hatchery and placed either in or without biodegradable nets on a natural bed. Aged, clean cultch was used as the control, and the growth, mortality, predation, fouling, and prevalence of disease were monitored for two growing seasons. The oysters grew to market size (3 inches, 76.2 mm) in 15 mo. Predation, due mainly to Atlantic oyster drills Urosalpinx cinerea, and overgrowth of oysters caused a mortality of 72% in the oyster seed during the first growing season. More abundant wild oysters set but fewer fouling organisms landed on the remote-set shells than on the clean cultch. To evaluate the effect of siltation on mortality, the oysters were left on the natural bed instead of being transplanted to growing areas, as is standardly done in commercial shellfishing operations. During the second growing period, siltation caused additional mortality until only 1.5% of the oysters deployed were alive. The method of restocking natural beds in Connecticut with remote-set oyster seed for use by the oyster industry looks promising due to the fast growth of the oyster seed. This experiment also demonstrates the challenges presented by nonharvest oyster restoration activities due to significant siltation-associated mortality.
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Vol. 35 • No. 1