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Newsletter || September 2021

General Managers Report

Matt Cunningham

Smoky Bay surrounds, SA. Photo credit: Bryce Porker.

As you will see throughout this newsletter there is a lot going on at the moment.

The ASI team is continuing to break records in terms of the number of trials we are operating and the amount of data collected as part of those trials. The increased effort is helping with better quality data which in turn allows us to breed and supply hatcheries with better oysters. As always, the focus is on oysters which provide financial benefits to those that grow them.

We are also rapidly approaching our hatchery phase in both Tasmania and South Australia. Meticulous planning is crucial in preparing for our breeding runs as we only get one shot at producing the families that will be tested under commercial growing conditions in both states. Continuous improvement is ongoing and gives us confidence of good breeding outcomes for this season.

I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge The Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) for the funding they have provided to ASI over the years. FRDC has been integral in what ASI has been able to achieve and this will continue with the current SA survival project and our upcoming move into genomics, pending final approvals.

There is heaps of great information in this newsletter but don’t hesitate to get in contact if you have any questions or feedback.

Matt Cunningham

General Manager


SA Field Update

Performance and survival data collection undertaken over various sites in South Australia. Photo credit: Carl Jaeschke, Bryce Porker and John Wright.

Hard work pays off here in South Australia (SA).

Over the last year, ASI has had the largest set of SA trials in the history of the breeding program. Thanks to FRDC funding, we’ve been able to increase our research capacity and data collection in SA. Data from our family trials drive the breeding program and improves genetic links, which allows us to breed tougher and more robust oysters with good commercial traits (e.g., SA survival, meat condition, shell shape and growth).

ASI has increased its efforts in SA with a total of eleven trials being measured at 3 month increments over the past 18-month period. The data includes four different year classes (2017, 2018, 2019, 2020) from five different sites (Smoky Bay, Cowell, Coffin Bay, Streaky Bay and Denial Bay). Our SA team has obtained data from a total 500,000 individual oysters. This adds to our existing data set providing a grand total of 128 SA trials; 659 families; and 1,163,326 oysters – all measured for SA survival and commercial traits.

We have done a pre-release of our top three 2019 performing families and the rest of the 2019 families will produce great SA survival spat and commercial potential. Our 2020 year class is also performing extremely well and the feedback from industry on the top seven lines shown at the SAOGA conference was very positive. Thanks to Mark Gluis from SARDI for producing such high quality 2020 stock. We are very keen to see the performance of the 2021-year class which will be spawned by the end of this year.

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank Zippel’s Enterprises, Cowell Seafood Producers, Angel Oysters, Evans Oysters and Marine Culture for their ongoing support. We also thank to our incredible ASI team doing the hard yards: Bryce Porker, Louis Robinson, John Wright and Jess Kube.

FRDC 2020-064 “South Australian Mortality trials” is supported by funding from the FRDC on behalf of the Australian Government.


SAOGA Conference

Left: Bryce Poker giving a presentation on ASI's progress in SA at the SAOGA conference. Right: SA industry stakeholders inspecting ASI stock at Cowell. Photo credit: Louis Robinson and Bryce Porker.

The annual SAOGA conference took place in Port Lincoln. ASI was invited to talk about the progress of the breeding efforts in SA. Four presentations were delivered covering different aspects: (1) What ASI is delivering in SA and how industry can make use of it (Matt Cunningham, ASI); (2) how we are achieving our objectives on the ground (Bryce Porker, ASI); (3) the fundamentals of selective breeding, how it works and how genomics fits in (Rob Banks) and; (4) how ASI selected lines handle OsHV-1 significantly better than unselected lines both in terms of survival and mean survival time (Marty Deveney, SARDI).

Rob has summarised his presentation in a Q&A article in this newsletter but if you would like to read more about Bryce and Marty’s presentation please use the below links.

SAOGA - Bryce Porker Presentation
Download • 4.28MB

SAOGA - Marty Deveny Project Update
Download • 280KB

Thank you to SAOGA for their hard work in organising this event.


Pre-release of 2019 "ASI SA Survival Lines"

We are excited to have completed a pre-release of the top three 2019 survival lines: 2019215, 2019229, and 2019230. They are great quality oysters and were inspected by industry at the recent SAOGA conference. Audience members gave very positive feedback on these family lines.

Our top two 2019 surviving families 230 and 229 have experienced an average mortality of between 2.2% and 3.2% over an 18-month period in our Cowell trials. They were deployed at 3 mm and now are at a bistro or larger size.

It is also very important to note that whilst these families have been primarily selected based on SA survival and commercial performance there is underlying POMS resistance from our previous POMS focus. We haven’t collected any POMS data on these families but based on their pedigree we would expect that one-year old animals would have over 60% survival even in an extreme POMS event.

We now have growing demand from the hatcheries with requests for the pre-release families as soon as possible. If you are interested in these families, please request from your hatcheries the “ASI SA Survival Lines”. Remember you will only benefit from all this great work if you get the ASI stock on your farm, so order now through your hatchery.

More information is available on ASI online Broodstock Catalogue and EBV information is now uploaded to the CSIRO breeding calculator:


“Top survivor and all-rounder”

2019230 is our top surviving family (also related to 2019229). It's a good all-round oyster with a classic shape, consistent growth, and good condition. Crossing this oyster with either 2019215 or other year classes with appropriate genetics should give good results.


“One of the programs toughest”

2019229 is our second top YC19 survivor. It has a thick shell with a nugget shape and consistent growth. Every basket we assessed has been heavier than most, indicating dense shell and good condition.


“Versatile with high survival”

2019215 can be crossed with many other families in different year classes. It is the fourth top surviving family, has a dark shell colour and good general shape. It has been a consistent grower and is a good all-round oyster.


TAS Field Updates

ASI team grading 2020 Pitt Water stock for future trials. Photo credit: Nick Griggs.

Our TAS strategy has seen us increase the number of performance trials deployed and the number of oysters measured at each site. Performance data is very different from our spat survival trials, this type of data is typically collected from 12-18th month old animals. Performance trials allow us to collect data on important commercial traits such as meat condition, uniformity, growth, and shape. Our aim is to work on these commercial traits whilst maintaining the important POMS genetic gains accumulated since the 2012-year class.

During August, we assessed the performance of the ASI stock from the 2019 year-class which were deployed at three Tasmanian field trial sites: Pittwater, Boomer Bay and Little Swanport. We sampled up to 90 individual oysters per family from each site. We will have the results of these trials summarised for the next newsletter. will be updating the ASI-CSIRO Hatchery Toolkit for hatcheries to access this information.

We would like to acknowledge our grower partners in these trials who allow ASI to grow this stock on their farms. A big thanks to Tas Oyster Co, Cameron of Tasmania, Marine Culture and Freycinet Oysters.


TAS 2021 Spawn Run

IMAS-ASI Biosecurity Facility Larval Rearing Room is set up and ready for the upcoming 2021 spawn run. Photo credit: Nick Griggs.

Our upcoming hatchery season is fast approaching. The first spawn of the 2021 year-class will occur in mid-September at the ASI-IMAS Biosecure Facility, at IMAS Taroona. We will maintain our focus on producing disease resistant animals but there will be an increased focus on meat condition and shell shape. We have developed a breeding plan which outlines our target parentage and anticipate producing 80 family lines. Broodstock have been selected and are currently conditioning in the hatchery. This season we welcome Grace Edwards and Lais Míura de Paula who will be joining Zoe Byrne, Nick Griggs and John Wright in the hatchery. We look forward to a bumper season working alongside the scientists and technicians at IMAS.


Ask a geneticist: How Genetics and Genomics Create a Strong Oyster Industry Future

Prof. Rob Banks (Board member, ASI). Rob has been an ASI board member since August 2018. His former positions include Director of Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit (AGBU); Director Tree Breeding Australia (AGBU); Livestock Producer Innovation (Southern Australia) – Meat and Livestock Australia; R&D Manager, Meat and Livestock Australia; National LAMBPLAN Coordinator and Board member Future Farm Industries CRC. Image Source:

We asked Rob Banks to give us an overview on how genetics and genomics work. This article outlines the main points about how that is being done and what is being achieved, and how developments in genomics offer exciting prospects for the future of the industry.

What is genetic improvement?

Genetic differences underpin all observed performance differences – in every species, in every trait, there are differences between individuals in their underlying genetic makeup. If we can identify the animal(s) with the best genes, and use them for breeding, we produce a population that is better and better over time.

Why is it important?

Industries can make productivity improvements by producing more and/or better product from the same or less inputs. In the case of the oyster industry, breeding better oysters is a very powerful and cost-effective way to achieve productivity improvement. The focus of improvements is likely to be in two areas: (1) decrease in cost of production traits (disease resistance, growth rate and uniformity), and (2) increase product quality traits (shell shape and meat condition).

How does ASI breed better oysters?

The ASI breeding program has a very broad genetic base, and that base is maintained year on year. This ensures maximum capacity for genetic progress in all traits into the future. The breeding program also requires very careful and comprehensive trait recording, across a range of environments and the use of pedigree information makes the selection of the genetically best families more accurate. This allows faster progress, and it enables very effective design of the mating’s to minimise inbreeding.

What has been achieved to date?

There has been a strong focus on POMS resistance through last 10 years whilst maintaining other commercial traits. Significant gains have been made, so that the stock now being released have very high POMS resistance. The gains made so far have estimated value to industry of millions of dollars per year already, even without trying to account for simply having an industry into the future. Those benefits are captured by all the growers with more future gains to be had through incorporating genomics into ASI’s breeding program.

What is genomics?

Genomics is the turbo-charging of genetic improvement that is now possible because we can read the actual DNA makeup of individuals. This has become practical and reasonably priced through the last 10 years and is now used routinely in all the main livestock and plant breeding industries.

What does genomics give us?

Genomics enables more rapid genetic improvement through early evaluation for all traits and more accurate trait selection. We can assess new individuals for all traits at birth, meaning we have potential to turn generations over faster. It also allows for more accurate trait selection by reading the DNA and looking for common patterns in DNA amongst individuals. This determines the similarity at the gene level between individuals with more precision and consequently increases the accuracy of EBVs (it gives us a more precise picture of the genetic makeup and therefore value of each individual). Genomics will also provide scope to screen material at the hatchery – to customise deployment material – so that specific locations might use specific genetic seed or spat, or specific markets might be based on specific seed.

Why is ASI well placed to move into genomics?

Genomics comes with a big dependence on data (Data! Data! Data!) on all traits of interest. ASI is uniquely strongly placed to exploit genomics because of the years of careful recording of a range of important traits, assisted by the trials conducted in a range of locations, backed by the pedigree information. Essentially, you could not design a better platform for moving into the genomics era. We can estimate the increase in rate of genetic progress possible through use of genomics, and based on this, the projections for return on investment and value to stakeholders of ASI turbo-charging its already world-leading program with genomics are very favourable.

How can ASI deliver maximum value for industry?

To ensure that the ASI program continues to deliver maximum value for industry, and to fully exploit the opportunities available through genomics, it will be important to focus on efficiency and quality simultaneously and including thinking about what traits will be important in the coming years. It’s also important to use as much trial data as can be afforded. Data is the absolute foundation and collecting good data on all traits and ideally in all the distinct production regions is vital.

Opportunities and inputs:

The ASI program has made an outstanding contribution to the viability of the Pacific oyster industry in Tasmania and South Australia, thanks to very good science, excellent operational management and the considerable inputs of growers who have assisted with trials – backed of course by Oysters Tasmania and South Australian Oyster Growers. The program has excellent opportunities to create even more value for stakeholders into the future. The potential value is measured in millions of dollars per year.

Rob’s presentation to the SAOGA Workshop and an extended version of this article are available on request. Contact Rob on


If you would like to get in touch with us, please find our details below:

Matt Cunningham

General Manager

0417 965 405

Bryce Porker

Regional Coordinator

0476 648 733


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