Knowledge Based Bio-Economy

Save soldier Oyster: will there still be oysters for Christmas in Europe?

The first Oyster World Congress was held in Arcachon (France) from 28 November to 2 December. It brought together representatives from 25 oyster producing countries around the world. Producers, scientists, policy makers, associations, managers etc., have debated and exchanged views and experiences concerning the outlook of the oyster sector. The debates have been structured along four main themes: the state and future of oysters at global scale, oyster health and diseases, the production ecosystem and the consumer.

The congress that has received large media coverage in France has been organised in a context of serious crisis faced by the European production sector. Since 2008, large scale mortalities in spat are been observed in most if not all production areas, when the water temperature rises above 16°C. These massive mortality events are threatening the European production (Europe is the 5th oyster producer worldwide beyond China, S. Korea, Japan and USA), particularly in France (main oyster-producing country in Europe), where it has decreased from 130 to 97.000 tonnes over the last years. Similar mortalities are also observed in other parts of the world.

The role of science will be essential in finding solutions for the European oyster sector and avoid that the pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas) follows the same fate as two other species that have been wiped out of the European coasts by diseases during the 20th century. Although the origin of the oyster mortalities is still unclear and most probably multifactorial, a particular form of the oyster herpes virus (OsHV1-microvar) has been detected in most if not all the mortality events. Therefore particular effort will be required in identifying the origin of the problem and the most appropriate solutions, like for instance new production methods, selective breeding etc.

The 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7) has supported research initiatives aiming at promoting the development of the European mollusc production sector. Subsequently, several FP7 projects are currently implemented addressing different challenges faced by the sector, including the main farmed mollusc diseases (Bivalife project), the controlled production of spat to balance the unpredictability of natural spatfall (Reproseed project) etc. Very recently, a new FP7 project has been launched (Euroshell project) aiming at facilitating the transfer of knowledge into the production cycle and improving the cooperation between scientists and producers and while fostering the participation of the mollusc production sector in the definition of research priorities in this field. These EU initiatives have been highlighted during the congress.

The first Oyster World Congress has not solved the problem of the European oyster producers but has allowed addressing the issue under an enlarged angle and scale: if the threat is global, the answer will have to be global as well. Appointment is taken for the 2nd edition of the event in 2014 in…Australia.

More info on the Oyster World Congress 2012.

More articles on this subject in Le POINT.fr and in SudOuest.fr