NIC research helps protect shellfish from predators

NIC Aquaculture Technician student Sahvanna McManus sets up oyster pouches at a shellfish farm on Denman Island.

NIC’s Centre for Applied Research, Technology and Innovation (CARTI) partnered with shellfish farmers on Denman Island on a pilot project to test anti-predator netting to protect oysters from predators.

The centre was approached by Han Pacific Shellfish Ltd., a small family-run shellfish farming company, which grows oysters in beds along the shoreline of Denman Island. The company was having issues with crab predation and reached out to CARTI to explore whether they could do a research collaboration to help find a solution.

CARTI received a $25,000 grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada to look into different options to protect the oysters.

“We did research on the current netting that was available and set up two different styles, along with a control area with no netting so we could compare which style worked the best,” said Allison Byrne, faculty research associate with CARTI.

Researchers worked with Han Pacific Shellfish Ltd. to deploy the netting and monitor crab presence within netted and control areas.

It was the first time Han Pacific Shellfish Ltd. had collaborated with CARTI and owners Han Tran and Dung Dau say the experience was worthwhile. The company saw an immediate benefit from both types of netting. Crabs were eating significantly less of the oyster crop within the protected tenure spaces.

“It was wonderful to work with the researchers at CARTI to develop a solution to the predation issue we were experiencing,” said Dau. “We continue to use the clam nets and bags, which has resulted in a reduction in the amount of oyster seed being eaten by crabs.”

CARTI connects NIC expert staff and students with local businesses and organizations to develop innovative solutions to challenges, with the goal of connecting communities through research.

“This was a great opportunity for students to work with a client on applied research and to form a new research relationship for NIC,” said Byrne. “It’s incredibly rewarding to find solutions that can work for clients long-term while also giving students unique opportunities in the field.”  

NIC is a premier community college offering post-secondary education and training to more than 157,000 residents of Northern Vancouver Island and the BC central coast. Its research activities, led by CARTI, build connections with industry and community.

To learn more about CARTI’s services, visit

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