The oyster Crassostrea gigas (Thunberg 1793) is one of the most important species for shellfish aquaculture worldwide, and many cultivation activities rely on the use of spat produced in hatcheries. The operation of hatcheries and the efficiency of the processes involved remain largely unknown. We designed a protocol to evaluate 31 elements of the different phases of C. gigas spat production to identify critical aspects. Our survey was conducted in four hatcheries located in Mexico. The results showed that hatcheries operate with an overall fair control of processes. Nonetheless, six critical control items and six below-average control items suggest that some practices are inappropriate for producing high-quality spat. For 16 items, at least one hatchery applies a suitable production process, but only for three items all hatcheries use the best alternative. Major concerns are the few oysters used in spawning processes, the lack of controlled crosses either between them or with other oyster lines, and the current lack of genetic tests. Besides, broodstock pedigree is not documented and the genetic variability of spat is unknown. Additional concerns are that hatcheries have no controls in place for gamete production estimates or for fertilization, hatching, settlement, and survival rates. The protocol seemed adequate to identify the major difficulties faced by hatcheries. These findings set the basis for the improvement of production processes in hatcheries. Potential areas deserving further research are also underlined.
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