Producing sterile shellfish

Enhancing sustainability of shellfish aquaculture through streamlined maturation control

Researchers seek an alternative method to produce sterile shellfish by studying Pacific oysters’ germ cell line and testing methods to block its development.

Principal Investigator

Steven Roberts, University of Washington, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences

Co-Principal Investigators

Adam Luckenbach, Northwest Fisheries Science Center

Cole Trapnell, University of Washington

Brent Vadopalas, Washington Sea Grant

Ten-Tsao Wong, Aquaculture Resource Center, University of Maryland


Sterile shellfish are desired in the aquaculture industry because of their high flesh quality, fast growth rates, low risk of genetically contaminating native populations, and low probability of becoming invasive species. However, the prevailing technique for producing sterile shellfish — ploidy manipulation — is time-consuming and inefficient. The researchers are addressing the need for a better sterilization method, which involves: 1) Establishing a more thorough understanding of the Pacific oyster’s (Crassostrea gigas) germ cell line, which is responsible for gamete production, and 2) Testing methods to block development of these germ cells. The research team aims to improve shellfish aquaculture’s sustainability and efficiency through this alternative sterilization method.