Endangered Abalone Restoration at MLML Aquaculture Facility

Moss Landing Marine Labs researchers Peter Hain and Kayla Roy along with California Sea Grant Aquaculture Specialist Luke Gardner raised endangered white abalone at MLML's aquaculture facility from embryos to approximately 2 inches over the past 2 years. A total of902 abalone were sent on February 19th 2021 to The Bay Foundation staff where they will be pampered at the Southern California Marine Institute until they pass a health check and are ready to be released into the wild.
These endangered marine snails got the royal treatment and were flown by private plane from Monterey Bay to LA courtesy of LightHawk volunteer pilot David Houghton. The release of these abalone will be a big bump to their population which are estimated to be no more than a few thousand in the wild. This was part of a large effort coordinated by the White Abalone Captive Breeding Program based at University of California, Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory and includes over a dozen partners along the west coast of North America. The MLML portion of the project was funded by San Jose State University and NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service.

SJSU/MLML aquaculture researchers help restore native Olympia oysters to Elkhorn Slough

The first effort to use aquaculture to restore native Olympia oysters in California has proven a success thanks to a team of researchers from San Jose State University/MLML, Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, and California Sea Grant.

Once so abundant that they could be harvested by the tens of thousands in just a few days, the population of oysters in Elkhorn Slough had plummeted to fewer than 1,000 individuals by 2018. In response to this decline, researchers raised thousands of oysters at the MLML Aquaculture Facility which were then outplanted in Elkhorn Slough. Two years of monitoring have shown that this effort successfully doubled the Olympia oyster population!

SJSU/MLML Research Faculty Member Dr. Luke Gardner reviews the success of this exciting project and the importance on conservation aquaculture in this California Sea Grant story. The results from this project were also published in a scientific journal article in Biological Conservation.

BOOO – Big Olympia Oyster Outplanting

Figure 1. Columns of various microalgae cultured for the adult and young Olympia oysters in the MLML aquarium room.
Steve Cunningham with an array of clams and small oysters ready for out-planting.

In time for Halloween, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (MLML) has teamed up with the Elkhorn Slough National Research Reserve (ESNERR) with funding from the Anthropocene Institute to place about 19,000 young native Olympia Oysters into the slough. Kerstin Wasson, who is the Research Coordinator for the ESNERR, reported that only about 4,000 Olympia Oysters currently survive in Elkhorn Slough, thus the goal of the project was to try and rebuild the population so that it could be self-sustaining.

Staff from ESNERR removed about 50 adults from the slough at various locations to account for possible location variability. These adults were used as the brood stock by MLML researchers and students that stimulated spawning by regulating temperature in a systematic fashion. The young oysters were then placed in temperature-controlled tanks with vertically arranged shells to allow the larval oysters a place to attach and start growing (Figures 1 & 2). The newly settled oysters were then fed various microalgae that were cultured in a new microalgae culture room at MLML (Figure 3).

Once ready to be transplanted into Elkhorn Slough, a group of volunteers gathered on 23 October 2018 to place the shells with the young oysters attached (Figures 4 & 5). Kerstin and her team will continue to monitor the new oysters to see how the well they survive. This was an excellent example of collaboration among local researchers, and the use of aquaculture practices to restore native populations. Read more at the post by CA Sea Grant.

Temperature controlled tanks for raising the young Olympia oysters in the MLML aquarium room.
Clam shells suspended in the tanks that serves as the substrate for the Olympia oyster young.
Kirsten Wasson (on right) and helpers place new array of clams and oysters attached into mudflats of Elkhorn Slough.