“Climate-Proofing” the Sydney Rock Oyster Industry

By the end of this century, the world’s oceans will have much higher concentrations of carbon dioxide and will be several degrees warmer than they are today. Many species that live in Australia’s coastal waters will have to adapt to these harsh conditions in order to survive. We know that such adaptation is possible, but we still do not know which inherited genes can protect marine animals from the effects of climate change. Finding these genes will be crucial to managing the impacts of climate change on important marine industries, such as oyster farming, which are worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the Australian economy every year.

SIMS is leading the search for climate change resistance genes in one of Australia’s most iconic aquaculture species, the Sydney rock oyster. A team of researchers from Macquarie University, the University of Western Sydney, the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries and the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Germany have recently won funding from the Australian Research Council to study genetic adaptation to climate change in Sydney rock oysters. Team leader, Associate Professor David Raftos, from Macquarie University says “This project centres on SIMS’ new research aquarium and laboratory facilities. It will test whether inherited increases in metabolic activity can protect marine organisms from the effects of climate change. The long term goal of our project is to breed populations of resilient oysters that can be used to “climate proof” the Australian oyster industry.”

Dave Raftos

Associate Professor Dave Raftos at the Sydney Fish Markets