Dr. Len Stephens
Elliston, Eyre Peninsula, SA.
It’s a busy time.
It is always uplifting to see the volume of work that ASI conducts on behalf of the oyster industry. The last few months have been no exception, as you will see from the articles in this edition of our newsletter.
I would like to emphasise a couple of activities that have recently started. The first of these is our new project to identify South Australian oyster family lines that have high survival rates. Spat mortality in South Australia has become a very significant problem over recent years and as growers have told us, it is a “here and now” problem as compared to POMS that is an over the horizon problem. The potential impact of POMS is too great for us to reduce our efforts in that area, so it is very pleasing that we have been able to secure funds from the Fisheries R&D Corporation for a new project to investigate mortality in South Australia.
I am very pleased to welcome Bryce Porker who has been recruited onto the ASI staff to run the project. Bryce will be based in South Australia and I anticipate he will become an important point of contact for SA growers.
The other initiative that I would like to highlight is the move to establish on-line access to our breeding catalogue. Hatcheries and growers interested in genetics will be able to obtain trait information and breeding values for ASI family lines as soon as the data becomes available. This will result in more timely decisions on breeding and enables us to achieve some efficiencies.
I would also like to acknowledge the difficulty that many oyster businesses have faced due to the COVID crisis. It has been very difficult for many people as oyster sales dropped precipitously early in the year. ASI was also impacted by reduced spat sales but the Job Keeper program helped cushion the financial impact. Let’s hope that the increase in oyster sales we are beginning to see will continue to grow.
General Managers Report
Pitt Water lease, TAS.
As you will see throughout the newsletter the YC20 breeding season in Tasmania and South Australia is progressing well. Hatchery production can be a fickle business and we still have a way to go before the spat are deployed to the field, but we are very pleased with the start to the year; particularly after we experienced difficulties in both TAS and SA last year.
I would like to extend my appreciation to the ASI team in Tasmania who have done a great job in the hatchery so far. I would also like to do the same to Andrew Trotter and the IMAS team who have implemented many changes over the off-season to ensure we saw improved outcomes this year. Similarly in SA, Mark Gluis and the SARDI team have made many improvements to the systems at West Beach and I am confident we will see improved results. In both states strong performance in the hatchery lays the platform for successful POMS and SA survival trials.
It has been great to see Bryce hit the ground running since he started with ASI. Hopefully, you all have his contact details to get in touch if you have any questions or feedback. At the time of writing, the latest COVID cluster in SA is unfolding, which has disrupted our plans to open up the trials for industry inspections.
Bryce was in Coffin Bay assessing our YC19 trials and was just about to invite local growers to inspect at our stock housed at Angels Oysters; Zac had even offered to fire up the BBQ! Our plans haven’t changed for the long term but we will just have to wait to see how things pan out in SA before we can start holding gatherings. Our intention is to make the SA survival trials as open to industry as possible when practicable.
In the coming weeks, we will be conducting an industry survey to help guide our long-term breeding objectives. If you would like to participate in the survey or have any feedback at all, please feel free to contact Bryce in South Australia or myself in Tasmania.
TAS Breeding Update
ASI staff in the IMAS-ASI Biosecurity Facility (aka "ASI hatchery") getting ready to do a spawn run for the YC20.
The larval rearing component of the YC20 family production has now concluded. We are pleased to report that we have 79 families currently settled in the IMAS nursery system. This sets us up for an early deployment to be able to maximise our chances of getting good POMS data. YC20 family production will remain an area of focus over the next 2-3 months for Tasmanian staff.
Sex ratios have been problematic this year with only ~10% of animals being male. This has made the optimal mating plan difficult to achieve. This is not the first time this problem has occurred and whilst we have been able to manage around it up to this point, we are currently discussing research around this with IMAS.
We've had our third external biosecurity audit for the IMAS-ASI Biosecurity Facility on the 27th October. The auditor was pleased with our processes and our ability to adhere to strict biosecurity protocols. As a result, there were no corrective actions issued and the report has been sent to the CVO.
SA Breeding Update
Recently set YC20 spat.
The SA YC20 production is currently underway at SARDI, with the first batch being successfully spawned on the 7th October. Currently, 41 families have been set and are progressing well. The second batch has been spawned and in the process of setting. We have good numbers of spat for each family which will set us up well for the YC20 SA survival trials. We expect to be deploying the majority of these animals throughout January to the field and have already started to plan the logistics around this.
SA Survival and New SA Regional Coordinator
Bryce Porker handling ASI stock in Smoky Bay.
Whilst we have not contractually started the FRDC funded SA survival project, we are forging ahead with activities related to the project. We have started to collect data for the second round of mortality assessments and have just completed the Coffin Bay mortality counts. At first glance the data looks really encouraging with a good range of mortality and most importantly consistency across different replicates in the same family. We will be completing assessments on the YC19’s in Cowell, Smoky Bay and Streaky Bay in the coming weeks. To get good outcomes from breeding we need good data so a multi-site approach will help enormously.
We are looking to log environmental data at each of the trial sites and Bryce has been looking into options around this. We will also work with PIRSA and SARDI to develop a sampling protocol so that oyster samples can be collected and stored for further analysis if there is a major mortality event at one or more of the sites. The analysis is not part of this project so we would need to find further funding to undertake this work but at least we will have the samples if required.
As we have previously mentioned, our intention is to run an open project where industry members can have direct involvement in the trials by visiting the sites, seeing the stock and data firsthand and give feedback. It didn’t quite work out this time due to the COVID lock down, but our aim hasn’t changed.
New Performance Traits
ASI performance test in Little Swanport for the YC18.
As with mortality our ability to be able to improve Oyster performance is dependent on the quality of data collected. Whilst our focus is still on POMS in Tasmania and SA survival in SA, we are bringing performance traits such as shape, growth, meat condition and shell colour back into the selection mix. Our success with POMS resistance has allowed us to do this earlier than anticipated in Tasmania. To assist with this, we have increased our effort in collecting data on these traits by measuring more animals at more sites. The feedback from CSIRO is that this approach is leading to better quality data which will in turn lead to better breeding outcomes. Traits like meat condition have always been quite difficult to measure and hopefully the “weight of numbers” approach will reap rewards.
New Online Broodstock Catalogue / CSIRO Database
Screenshot of the new online Broodstock Catalogue.
We have been in conversation with CSIRO and industry (through the ITRG) about how we can improve the Broodstock Catalogue (BSC). This has resulted in moving to an online system, which is composed of two parts: 1) ASI website (where general information is held); and (2) CSIRO database (where EBVs and inbreeding values can be calculated). The two parts are linked and together form the new online BSC. The Beta version has been presented at our last ITRG meeting and feedback was positive.
This new system includes many benefits, such as:
Streamlining information. Essential information will be easy to find (e.g. inbreeding coefficients, performance EBV’s and stock photos). Technical information will now be in an annual technical report to supplement breeding information.
Centralization or “One-stop-shop”. Instead of trying to find multiple documents and excel spreadsheet, all the information is in the one spot.
Flexibility. It is not losing attributes of the current system but provides more flexibility and communicating more information for those who want it (e.g. ability to see broodstock photos with more ease and easily access both SA and TAS information etc.).
Efficiency. Cuts down back-end work between ASI and CSIRO and therefore information can be delivered faster to hatcheries (e.g. excel inbreeding calculator is labor intensive).
No extra costs. There are no extra costs for this, and it is within the scope of the ASI and CSIRO contract.
Updates in real-time. There will be updates in real-time and therefore there is no doubt that hatcheries will always have the latest information. Updates will always be emailed to hatcheries to let me know what has changed.
If you would like to get in touch with us, please find our details below:
0417 965 405
0476 648 733