Aquaculture at UC Davis


Our mission is to provide science-based support to California’s aquaculture interests, including aquaculture producers, State, and Federal agencies impacting aquaculture, and the general public. Our primary efforts are to California, but our research and extension programs and collaborations extend to regional, national, and international partnerships.



Aquaculture Extension

Extension outreach activities in aquaculture are conducted by the campus-based Cooperative Extension Specialists working independently, or in concert with other University faculty who also have some outreach responsibility. This cooperative effort expands the outreach capabilities of the total aquaculture program and allows greater utilization of University resources. Major outreach programs include freshwater and marine aquaculture production; system design and management; water quality management; species physiology and biological requirements; disease and stress management; aquatic animal welfare; invasive species management; technology investigations; recycle and aquaponic support; and aquaculture site selection.



Oyster aquaculture is California’s oldest aquaculture industry. What began in the early 1850’s as a transplant shellfish industry from the east coast is today a valuable asset to the state’s economy, traditions and a guardian of water quality in our natural resources. Today the California marine aquaculture industry grows a variety of shellfish species, primarily bivalve shellfish including Pacific and Kumamoto oysters, Manila clams, and Mediterranean mussels; and is the only state with an abalone industry. California shellfish products are considered prime, and the production areas are among the best in the country. Current bivalve shellfish production is located in northern California’s Arcata Bay; Tomales Bay and Morro Bay located in the state’s central coastline; and Agua Hedionda Lagoon located in southern California.  A new offshore shellfish industry is being initiated that are currently growing, or in the planning stages to grow oysters and mussels. Production sites and planning sites are located offshore near Ventura and Santa Barbara, California; and in the Southern California Bight.  



California has the most diverse aquaculture finfish industry in the United States. The various topographies and microclimates result in a wide range of water temperatures, and over twenty-five species of finfish are in production. Finfish products include food fish, recreational finfish, and ornamental species. California does not have a major aquaculture finfish processing industry. Most finfish species are live-hauled to larger metropolitan areas where they are held in live-tanks, but fresh-killed and sold directly to consumers. Major live-haul species include channel catfish, hybrid carp, and tilapia. California is the largest producer of sturgeon and caviar in the United States. The sturgeon meat is sold regionally, and internationally; and the caviar is considered prime and also sold internationally. Secondary food species, used in the recreational fishing industry, support a multi-billion-dollar-a-year recreational sports industry. Major recreational finfish species include channel catfish, rainbow trout, largemouth bass, and lesser sunfish such as bluegill and redear sunfish.

Additional Aquaculture

Algal culture, both marine and freshwater, is another demonstration of the diversity of the State’s aquaculture production. Spirulina production for multiple products has been grown in the salton sea area for several decades, and currently large investments have been made in the culture of selected strains of microalgae for the productions of biofuels. Microalgal and associated invertebrate rotifer and artemia production for hatchery rearing of mollusks, shrimp and finfish has been established on the central coast for two decades. Offshore marine aquaculture ventures have also received grants to research the culture of macroalgae (seaweeds) for both human and animal  consumption. Algal culture in all its forms have a bright future in California aquaculture.

Although recycle aquaculture systems have been employed by California’s aquaculture industry since the early 1990s, a new emphasis and expansion of this technology is foreseen. California’s priority is now the preservation of its water resources, and the expansion of water conservation technologies and multiple use of water resources is an industry priority. The rapid development of aquaponics, the combination of growing fish and plants together in one integrated system, is expected and support programs for this technology are being developed.



Aquaculture in the 21st Century: The Rise of Women

Alexandra Peralta Vasquez, owner of OstraRica from Punta Cuchillo Costa Rica shares her oysters and demonstrates her shucking skills. I swear I only had one! At the World Aquaculture Society meeting, LACAQUA19, Thursday plenary speaker, Dr. Enric Gisbert spoke on the increasing role and influence of women in aquaculture in the 21st century. This …

Oyster Hatchery at the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory

For over 20 years the Bodega Marine Lab has had an Oyster Hatchery. I’m always learning about our rich history and capabilities.  One species we are especially good at culturing is our native oyster, the Olympia Oyster (Ostrea lurida). This species is a focus of conservation aquaculture in California.  While it is a slow grower …