Project number: 2010-734
Project Status:
Budget expenditure: $71,000.00
Principal Investigator: Bob Cox
Organisation: Tasmanian Oyster Research Council Ltd
Project start/end date: 31 Aug 2010 - 29 Dec 2010


"Over-catch" (fouling) and pest species (oysters, barnacles, sea squirts, flatworms, mudworm) cost the Australian oyster industry an inestimable sum each year in grading and handling labour, product loss and reduced price due to unmarketable product. The pests are regionally specific, the issue is common across all growing areas and in all cases is a major financial burden. In NSW overcatch is currently treated through labour expensive heat treatment and stock management. The cost effectiveness of the alternate proposed treatment froms part of this proposal.

For example, oyster overcatch is one of the primary deterrents to interstate investment into Port Stephens, NSW which previously was a highly productive single species estuary. It is estimated that NSW production would be increased by 12.5% (GVP of almost $5m) through Marine Culture's use of a successful overcatch treatment in Port Stephens alone. Marine Culture propose to farm an output of 750,000 dozen Pacific Oysters off the area.

This project expands investigative research by NSW I&I (Heasman 2005) in which experimental, small scale cold shock trails “resulted in the death of advanced rock oyster over-catch in as little 5 seconds and complete mortality after exposure periods of 60 seconds and above. By contrast, no deaths nor discernable negative effects on the health and flesh condition of host Pacific oysters were detected for cold shock durations of up to 2 minutes”.

The project will include a more comprehensive range of oysters sizes and types, and fouling organisms. Further, and critically, the method needs to be assessed on a large scale under commercial operating environments to demonstrate practicality and cost effectiveness.


1. Increased Australian oyster production and value
2. Enhanced oyster farming efficiencies and cost effectiveness
3. Make available relevant cold tolerance parameters for oyster, key fouling and pest species to the industry for uptake

Final report

Authors: Bob Cox Peter Kosmeyer Wayne O’Connor Michael Dove Kyle Johnstone
Final Report • 2012-06-01 • 2.94 MB


The recruitment of fouling or pest organisms to cultured oysters and growing infrastructure imposes a major financial impost for oyster culture throughout Australia and serves as a particular deterrent to industry expansion in certain regions. Oyster farmers have a range of management options such as mechanical cleaning, drying or cooking to control fouling, but each option typically has its limitations. Cold-shock, through immersion in chilled (-12 to -16°C) hypersaline (180 - 200 g l-1 NaCl) baths, is a comparatively new technique that has demonstrated the potential to effectively control a range of pest species without adverse effect on the host oysters. Most notably, hypersaline cold-shock can be used to control subsequent natural oyster settlement known as “over-catch”.

A commercial scale, hypersaline, cold-shock bath, dubbed the “Super Salty Slush Puppy” was constructed to provide proof of concept of cold shock treatment for over-catch control. The cold shock bath was deployed to Port Stephens NSW where it was successfully used for both experimental and commercial scale biofouling treatment. In experimental scale laboratory trials, the cold tolerances of various size classes of both Sydney Rock Oysters (Saccostrea glomerata), Pacific Oysters (Crassostrea gigas) were assessed and tolerance estimates were determined. Overall cold shock tolerance in both species was size-dependent with smaller individuals succumbing faster. Comparatively, S. glomerata of up to commercial size were less tolerant of hypersaline cold-shock than C. gigas. Operating guidelines for cold shock treatment were developed - a period of 75 seconds immersion revealed 100% destruction of fouling over-catch oysters with no detrimental effects on the stock oysters. The effectiveness of cold shock in treating a range of additional pest species (barnacles, hairy mussels, flatworms etc) was confirmed. Cold-shock was found to be particularly destructive to “soft-bodied” pests such as flat worms and smaller organisms such as barnacles.

Based upon simple assumptions, the operating cost of treatment is $1,215 per 100,000 of 60 to 80 mm [top shell measurement] oysters, or, put another way, a cost of $4,200 for 345,600 sale size oysters with a $1m sale value. Even when capital costs are included, and assuming that other mitigation measures see the equipment used only once every four years, the cost per dozen for treatment works out at 3.4 cents per dozen.

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