The green crab is an invasive species that greatly harms native species in the waters of the Atlantic provinces.
Green crabs collected from the waters of Kejimkujik Seaside National Park near Liverpool , Nova Scotia will be shipped to Montreal this spring. Professor Audrey Moores has developed a non-toxic method of transforming a natural polymer found in the shell of crustaceans into a rigid, opaque plastic.
The shells of other crabs, shrimp and lobsters work well, says Moores . She believes this will also be the case for the green crab shell.
Unlike conventional plastic, Ms. Moores’ material degrades in the ocean, but more research is needed to find out how long this process takes, says the professor.
These works inspire enthusiasm in Gabrielle Beaulieu, manager of the coastal restoration project at Kejimkujik National Park and Historic Site. The park has been fighting green crab for decades.
Invasive species can be harmful to the ecosystem and you have to be open to surprising solutions, explains Beaulieu.
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Green crab in Kejimkujik Seaside National Park has been ravaging clam and eelgrass since the 1980s, a marine flowering plant that is used as a nursery for marine animals.
The first green crabs in North America came from the ballast water of European ships in the 19th century. They spread with the warming of the oceans.
There are only a handful of places in the Atlantic provinces that the green crab has not yet invaded, points out Gabrielle Beaulieu
If green crab can be used as a solution to plastic pollution of the oceans, it will be an innovative way of looking at the problem of invasive species in a different way, says Beaulieu.
Two million green crabs have been removed from the waters of Kejimkujik Seaside National Park since 2010, she said.
Climate change may one day lead to the appearance of other invasive species in the region, she adds.
Transforming chitin into bioplastics
Audrey Moores ‘ method consists of reducing the shell into powder to separate the chitin, one of the main components of shellfish and insects, explains Parcs Canada on its website.
The chitin is then mixed with sodium hydroxide (soda) to remove the proteins.
Then, the mixture rests for six days in a sort of “steam room” to produce the bioplastic.
This bioplastic is currently as hard as glass. Ms. Moores said his team is looking to make more flexible so it can be used to make kitchenware and other disposable items.
Audrey Moores will receive in Montreal a first shipment of green crabs in the spring, but the production of her bioplastic will then move to Nova Scotia where it will gain momentum.
The professor who visited Nova Scotia last summer estimates that it would take hundreds of green crabs to produce a few pounds of bioplastic.
Eelgrass is regaining ground
Danielle Beaulieu does not believe that it will be possible to eradicate the green crab in Kejimkujik Seaside National Park, but thanks to the management of this population, she emphasizes, local species like eelgrass can start to s ‘adapt to the invader.
Due to the ravages of green crab, only 2% of eelgrass cover remained in the park compared to 1987 levels, she explains, but thanks to conservation efforts about 34% of the cover has restored.
Published on ici.radio-canada.ca
- Chitin bioplastics is, normally, a “by-waste bioplastics”: the shells and other waste are recuperated from the shell fish industry and used to make bioplastics.
- Canadians intend to kill green crabs for the purpose of making bioplastics. What about the animal right?
- Thanks to the Canadians we’re now facing a moral question: can we substitute fossil plastics by chitin bioplastics if it involves killing green crab specifically for the purpose of making bioplastics?