Fisheries managers first imported the European or flat oyster, Ostrea edulis, to Maine in 1949 in an attempt to return local oyster populations to commercially harvestable levels. While the experiment was unsuccessful, some European oysters reproduced and became established alongside the native oysters, Crassostrea virginica. According to Bouchard, the flat oyster presents an interesting alternative species for aquaculture. It is better adapted to the cold waters characteristic of the Gulf of Maine, especially along the Downeast coast, and is more resistant to the the diseases that threaten native oysters. A European oyster industry in Maine would complement, rather than compete with, the existing oyster industry by fulfilling a demand for flat oysters and opening up markets in Europe.
Bouchard is locating and mapping wild populations of Ostrea edulis in maine waters and sampling adult oysters to perform a baseline health assessment to inform future culture experiments and industry expansion. Sea Grant funds are supporting transportation, sampling materials and supplies, and laboratory analysis.
Sea Grant funds: $3,305