Biodegradable Plastics from Invasive Crabs

Imagine a future in which one of the most prolific and destructive marine invasive species is controlled, harvested and processed into sustainable bioplastics. McGill University and Parks Canada have formed a partnership to develop this innovative, sustainable solution.

One third of the world’s plastics end up in the ocean where they biopersist, creating formidable challenges for wildlife and habitats. Associate Professor Audrey Moores and her team at McGill have discovered an innovative way to turn shell waste of crustaceans into biodegradable plastics, which could break down under oceanic conditions. Our colleagues from Parks Canada have developed a precise technique to trap European green crabs – an aggressive invasive species that causes ecosystem collapse where it is not native – with minimal by-catch mortality, allowing us to harvest the crabs with the least disruption to the surrounding ecosystem.

We are thus seeking community support to turn this invasive species challenge into a global solution to the plastics dilemma. By using biochemical components of the European green crab, this project will not only develop a marine biodegradable plastic, but it will also enhance the recovery of deteriorated coastal ecosystems and provide a new industry to sustain coastal fishing communities.

What will we do with your donation?
Besides helping us fund our project, your donation will unlock essentials funds from the Fathom Fund. If we raise $12,500 or more from donors like you, Fathom Fund will contribute $37,500. Additionally, Parks Canada has agreed to supplement our project. It is crucial we obtain all possible funding in order to hire a researcher for 6 months specifically devoted to this endeavour. We will also purchase small equipment and supplies.

Why donate to this project?
Creating sustainable bioplastics while reducing the damage caused by an invasive species accomplishes two significant objectives at once. Donors will receive social media and/or email updates on progress towards the goal of operationalizing the creation of biodegradable products from invasive crab shells.

Parks Canada Partnership
Parks Canada will lead the engagement of stakeholders and communities by directly contributing raw material to this initiative through local community harvesting agreements and liaising with existing green crab license holders throughout southwest Nova Scotia. Through established and wildly popular visitor experience programs such as Gone Crabbin’ and the Great Canadian Green Crab Hunt, Parks Canada will engage visitors and coastal communities and continue to develop special on-site events that highlight the necessity and innovation of this work. By establishing a marketable product from green crabs, and through collaborations with licensed green crab fishers, community and public support for this project will grow and be promoted through the industry, social media and traditional media platforms.

 

Meet the Project Team: 
Audrey Moores

Audrey Moores is an associate professor at McGill University, Canada Research Chair in Green Chemistry (2007-2017), co-lead of the McGill Sustainability Systems Initiative – Material.

Chris McCarthy

Chris McCarthy is the Resource Conservation Manager for the Mainland Nova Scotia Field Unit of Parks Canada. His team piloted the harvest of European green crabs in a controlled study to restore coastal ecosystems at Kejimkujik National Park Seaside. This project provided foundational information for the creation of a commercial green crab fishery in southwest Nova Scotia.

Gabrielle Beaulieu

Gabrielle Beaulieu is the Coastal Restoration Project Manager at Kejimkujik National Park Seaside. She manages restoration activities at the park and has created unique tourism opportunities where visitors help restore the coastal ecosystem by fishing crabs. She has also fostered partnerships to create high-end culinary products and experiences with green crab.

A full-time researcher

A full-time researcher will be hired for this project. We will recruit a recent graduate with an MSc or PhD in Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, Food, or Environmental Sciences from either Quebec or Nova Scotia.