Effects of controlled air exposure on the survival, growth, condition, pathogen loads and refrigerated shelf life of eastern oysters

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© 2017 John Wiley & Sons Ltd The benefits of exposing eastern oysters to air during commercial culture have not been well-characterized. An adjustable longline system (ALS) designed in Australia and recently adopted by the nascent aquaculture industry in the northern Gulf of Mexico, allows growing oysters at any position in the water column and is perfectly suited to study the benefits of air exposure. Four-month old diploid oysters were deployed in an ALS and divided into three groups: 1) oysters exposed to air daily for 8–12 hr during low tide, 2) oysters exposed to air weekly (~24 hr once a week), and 3) oysters kept subtidally. Oyster mortality and growth rates, Perkinsus marinus load and condition index were then determined every 3 months over 2 years, while refrigerated shelf life and Vibrio vulnificus load were determined in summer and early fall of the second year. Summer mortalities were delayed, P. marinus infection intensities tended to be lower and condition index was significantly higher in oysters exposed to air daily compared with oysters exposed to air weekly or held subtidally. Shell heights of oysters exposed to air daily were lower for most of the study due to a lower growth rate during the initial sampling interval following deployment. No consistent differences were found in V. vulnificus loads or refrigerated shelf lives between the groups. It is recommended that ALS be set so that oysters are kept subtidally fall through spring to promote growth, and exposed to air daily during summer to delay P. marinus proliferation.

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Aquaculture Research

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