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5 February 2007

Pacific Oyster

Coffin Bay is known as the breeding ground for the best oysters in South Australia.

PAUL MCCARTHY: They may not be everyone's culinary cup of tea, but for those who have the taste for them there is nothing quite like a freshly shucked oyster and thanks to advances in genetic engineering, oysters are about to get bigger and better.

MATTHEW WILSEN (SA OYSTER HATCHERY): We have relied on nature to just naturally breed and now we are taking it to the next step and using genetic testing and DNA profiling.

PAUL MCCARTHY: Coffin Bay might be the mecca of oysters in South Australia but the ones we eat today are not natives. The original mud oysters were fished out and replaced with Pacific oysters brought in from Japan about 50 years ago. All oysters bred here today can be traced back to that first batch. But over that past seven years scientists have been mapping a family tree of Australian oysters.

MICHAEL WHILLAS (S.A. OYSTER GROWERS PRESIDENT: They gave us some opportunities to try and breed a better oyster without genetic modification but to pick family lines and cross breed them to try and improve our stock.

PAUL MCCARTHY: They believe they have now come up with the thoroughbred of the oyster world.

SCOTT PARKINSON (AUSTRALIAN SEAFOOD INDUSTRIES): We are looking for a range of traits. We are looking for a better shaped oyster, we are looking for a better meat to shell ratio so as a consumer you have got a better meat to eat, a bigger meat and we are also looking at fast growth, we are also look at survival.

PAUL MCCARTHY: Matthew Wilsen says breeding is as simple as following a recipe but you have to get it right.

MATTHEW WILSEN: I could raise this temperature by adding a cupful of warm water from a kettle now and they would probably spawn. From these guys we end up with millions of little larva which are smaller than the size of a pinhead and we are talking, we can get up to 100 to 200 million from one spawning.

PAUL MCCARTHY: But this size, handfuls of oysters are put on to special racks and taken out to sea. They eventually grow into beauties like these.
Oysters store their energy as glycogen or sugar, which is the creamy part of the shellfish, the part which gives the oyster its sweet taste. Scientists are looking for specimens with good stores of sugar along with a host of other features.

NATALIE MOLTSCHANIEWSKYJ: We are looking for a animal that has got very nice proportions in regards to the shell size and the amount of meat that is sitting in the shell and the fact that it sits flat on the plate which is what the consumer wants.

PAUL MCCARTHY: The new South Australian line will go on sale later this year. Most importantly they shouldn't cost the consumer any more. Growers will actually save money because they will have less handling of their oyster and who knows, dabbling in selective breeding could see the development of a supercharged aphrodisiac oyster sometime in the future.

story notes

 not be everyone's culinary cup of tea
If something is not your cup of tea it’s not to your taste - it’s not what you like. Not everyone likes eating oysters.
Example: Working on the weekends is not my cup of tea.
Click here for more idioms and common expressions.

To shuck means to take the shell off from seafood.

Advances are changes and developments that lead to improvement.

The expression mecca refers to any place of pilgrimage or a special place people want to come to.
Example: The great pyramid of Egypt is a tourist mecca.
Click here for more idioms and common expressions.

 fished out
Here fished out means that over the years all the oysters have been collected and eaten.
Example: The sea near the city has been fished out of good sized tuna.
For more meanings of the phrasal verb fish out, follow the link below to our language library.
more information: fish out

Here brought is the past tense of the irregular verb bring. Follow the link below to find out more and to listen to some examples.
more information: bring

To breed means to keep an animal or plant in order to reproduce it. Here bred is the past participle of the irregular verb breed. Follow the link below to find out more and to listen to some examples.
more information: breed

 have been mapping
This is the present perfect continuous tense, used for actions that have begun in the past and are still happening. Follow the link to our language library to find out more.
more information: present perfect continuous tense

Gave is the past tense of the irregular verb give. Follow the link below to find out more and to listen to some examples.
more information: give

 cross breed
To cross breed means to reproduce two different types or families of a species.

Animals used in farming are called stock

 come up with
thought of
Example: We need to come up with new ideas
For more meanings of the phrasal verb come up with, follow the link below to our language library.
more information: come up with

The term thoroughbred usually refers to a horse with parents of the same breed. The parents both have very good qualities, so the young horse is expected to be very strong and fast, too.
In this case, they’ve bred new oysters from their very best oysters. So the young oysters are thoroughbreds.

The word proportions refers to the dimensions of something - the relationship between the sizes of the different parts of a thing. If you talk about the proportions of your body, you’re talking about how the parts of your body look compared to other parts. You might say: ‘I think his head his out of proportion to his body’. That means his head seems to be the wrong size compared to the rest of his body.
Or: ‘ I tried to draw a horse but the legs were out of proportion’, meaning that they looked like they were the wrong size.
But here, they’re talking about the proportions of an oyster - the amount of meat compared to the shell size that they’re interested in.