Auburn University's Shellfish Laboratory, located on Dauphin Island, Alabama was founded by the State Legislature in 1971. It is equipped with a pipeline to supply the laboratory with a continuous source of water from the Gulf of Mexico. Priorities for the Shellfish Laboratory include restoring and enhancing natural oyster reefs and enhancing the development of viable aquaculture industries in Alabama and the region. The lab also will provide formal education opportunities for the state and region and offer educational materials and demonstrations related to wise development of coastal and marine resources. The laboratory’s goals include fortifying and improving the production and survival of oysters, shrimp and crabs; increasing knowledge of the diseases affecting shellfish health and food safety; enhancing the survival and culture of bait species; increasing public knowledge of mariculture through tours and targeted group meetings; and cooperating with federal, state and other public agencies to identify emerging issues and critical research needs.
The wet lab area allows researchers to spawn shellfish and raise the resulting larvae and juvenile animals for research projects, restoration projects and stock enhancement projects. The lab's hatchery has the capacity to raise 10 million oyster larvae and 1 million to 2 million oyster spat (young oysters, usually less than a year old) at any given time. The hatchery also can store 12,200 gallons of seawater in two 6,100-gallon storage tanks, to be used for applications where finely filtered water is needed.
Shellfish, such as shrimp, oysters and crabs, are vital commodities harvested from the Gulf. They provide significant contributions to Alabama's commercial and recreational fishing industry and significant economic value to coastal communities. Maintaining a continuing and sustainable supply of shellfish from the Gulf of Mexico is essential to the Alabama seafood industry, and vital to protecting the balance of life in the Gulf.