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Hong Kong Harnessing Tech for Oyster Aquaculture

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The Hong Kong Oyster Hatchery and Innovation Research Unit (HKO-HIRU) at The University of Hong Kong (HKU) hosted the ‘The World is Our Oyster (WOO) Symposium 2023,’ an event that saw the official establishment of the Oyster Aquaculture Alliance for One Health (OAA).

With over 50 stakeholders in attendance, including scientists, policymakers, government officials, oyster growers, industrial partners, and research students, the symposium served as a platform for sharing cutting-edge research findings and discussions on the future of ONE HEALTH oyster aquaculture in Hong Kong.

Image Credits: HKU, Press Release

The cultivation of Hong Kong oyster species in southern China significantly contributes to global edible oyster production, constituting a quarter of the total. These oysters are not only a nutritious delicacy, rich in Omega-3, but are also a staple for the rising middle-class populations. However, the sector faces unprecedented challenges due to reclamation, overcrowding, and climate change, directly impacting oyster food safety, security, and wild seed production.

To address these challenges, the HKSAR government funded HKU via the Sustainable Fisheries Development Fund (SFDF) to establish the research-based hatchery HKO-HIRU. The aim is to develop novel technology for the modernisation of the sector with a focus on knowledge exchange, collaborating with growers in South China and a Hong Kong-based food company that specialises in Asian sauces.

One of the significant breakthroughs is the successful production and delivery of over 5,000 strings of seeds to local oyster growers in Lau Fau Shan (LFS). The hatchery achieved a milestone by producing its first batch of triploid oyster seeds, which are being monitored for their performance. Triploid oysters, possessing three sets of chromosomes, exhibit resilience to environmental stressors like climate change, pH fluctuations, and salinity. Local production of triploid oyster seeds in Hong Kong holds the potential to enhance oyster aquaculture.

The hatchery has also completed the first trial batch of single oyster spat production, collaborating with the Department of Architecture at HKU, utilising in-house upwelling and downwelling systems. Innovative materials co-developed with HKU’s Civil Engineering Department aim to improve oyster spat recruitment. Furthermore, the research unit is actively working on developing a Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) chip for broodstock management at the hatchery.

During the event, notable figures such as the Associate Vice-President (Research) of HKU and the Dean of HKU Science highlighted the significance of innovative technologies and collaboration for the modernisation of oyster aquaculture. A representative from the Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department (AFCD) expressed appreciation for the progress made by HKO-HIRU, and the President of the Hong Kong Oyster Culture Association showed interest in integrating hatchery technology in Sha Tau Kok.

The symposium included a full-day session at HKU’s off-campus research facility, the Swire Institute of Marine Science (SWIMS), where scientists and policymakers discussed the sustainable future of oyster aquaculture. The group visited the HKU-AFCD oyster rafts in LFS on the final day, providing a unique opportunity for oyster growers to voice their concerns and engage in collaborative discussions with AFCD representatives and scientists on improving the quality and market value of Hong Kong oysters.

The Director of HKO-HIRU and the organiser of the symposium, expressed satisfaction with the outcomes, stating that the meeting demonstrated breeding technologies developed in the HKO-HIRU and identified ways to integrate these technologies with national efforts to develop sustainable oyster aquaculture for one health on a global scale.


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