Cryogenic Preservation of Oyster Gametes to Improve Hawaii and West Coast Oyster Stocks

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2016: $25,000.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2018
Grant Recipient: Goosepoint Oyster Co.
Region: Western
State: Washington
Principal Investigator:
David Nisbet
Goosepoint Oyster Co.

Annual Reports


  • Animals: shellfish


  • Animal Production: aquaculture


    Cryogenics is a useful method for animal breeding and production. Relatively little work has been done with oysters as compared to mammalian livestock. Goosepoint Oyster Co. and its subsidiary, Hawaiian Shellfish LLC identified the ability to cryopreserve oyster gametes as a fundamental technique for advancing their selective breeding program. Not only is this important for the companies directly involved, Hawaiian Shellfish LLC provides oyster seed to over 20 companies who can also benefit from improved oyster stock. This work focused on developing capacity among hatchery operators to cryopreserve oyster gametes using new methods developed by Dr. Terrence Tiersch.

    All startup and organizational activities have been completed, including the visit of Dr. Terrence Tiersch (Louisiana State University Agricultural Center) to provide training in the process of cryogenic preservation to the staff of the Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resources Center (PACRC) at the University of Hawaii Hilo and Hawaiian Shellfish, LLC.

    Dr. Tiersch made his first visit in early July 1016 where he visited the Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resources Center (PACRC) at the University of Hawaii Hilo and Hawaiian Shellfish, and gave lectures on the cryogenic preservation process for mammals as well as oysters. Approximately 15 staff and students attended the lectures. He also advised on the materials and equipment that would be needed for the training visit by Bill Childress 9/30/2016. With these materials purchased, Hawaiian Shellfish and PACRC created the capacity for cryopreservation work to begin in Hawaii.


    Bill Childress visited Hawaiian Shellfish LLC and trained PACRC and Hawaiian Shellfish staff on the use of his “Cryogenic Cooler Kit” for freezing and thawing oyster sperm. An innovative and important feature of the kit is the use of 3-D printing to enable anyone to make a rack that precisely controls cooling rates which eliminates the need for expensive instrumentation normally used for freezing sperm. Liquid nitrogen was added to the Styrofoam cooler, and his “Straw Rack” held twenty straws of liquid sperm that were extracted from male Pacific Oysters. Staff were also trained on safety measures and the mixing of cryopreservants to be added to the oyster sperm.

    Project objectives:

    1. Develop reliable and replicable sperm collection, handling, and shipping methods at the three oyster farms in Washington, and the two Hawaii hatcheries. Dr. Tiersch will receive the material at the LSUAC Aquatic Germplasm and Genetic Resources Center, freeze the sperm, and use it in fertilization tests.

    2. Test cryopreserved sperm in fertilization trials to assess post-thaw viability and enable estimation of the quantities of material that will be needed for production-scale use.

    3. Evaluate the materials, equipment, and training needs for the hatcheries to be able to collect, freeze, and store sperm on-site in remote locations. This will take into account problems such as electrical failures, natural disasters and personnel turn over that affect remotely located farm facilities. A plan for future on-site capacity will be developed.


    4. Contribute specimens of wild and selected oyster lines to the USDA National Animal Germplasm Program ( as back-up reserves of germplasm.


    5. Conduct outreach and training for hatchery and farm personnel, students and the wider aquaculture stakeholders.


    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.