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Vancouver Island researchers look into oyster breeds as temperatures rise B.C.


B.C.'s coastline could look different in the next five to 15 years, especially after last year's heat dome.

The extreme weather event is one reason why researchers on Vancouver Island are trying to raise shellfish that will adapt to warmer temperatures.

"We know this is an ongoing problem," said Tim Green at the Centre for Shellfish Research in Deep Bay, B.C.

"It's one of the reasons we set up the experiment, prior to the heat dome, (because) we know this is a major stress," he said.

Fourteen different families of Pacific Oysters are breeding in tanks at the Vancouver Island University facility in Deep Bay, as researchers try to develop hardier shellfish.

"So far they are quite adaptable so that’s really quite positive," said Green.

"But we want to make sure that when we start to breed for a certain trait it isn’t something that’s going to turn out to be a horrible surprise in the future," he said.


Last year, University of British Columbia researcher Chris Harley sounded alarm bells after he observed massive die-off of mussels, clams, and other marine life along B.C.'s coast, caused by the unprecedented temperatures.

In Deep Bay, however, oysters that are part of three research field sites fared better.

"We think the breeds – or some cooling, some evaporated cooling, kept the oysters alive," said Green. "Other locations such as around Powell River, down in Vancouver where Chris Harley was, yeah, very high mortalities."

The executive director of the B.C. Shellfish Grower's Association says some farmers suffered huge losses last year.

A gathering of shellfish growers met on Wednesday to discuss the issue.

"The super-low tide coincided with the heat of the day and unfortunately it was too hot for the oysters to survive in, and some areas suffered up to 70 per cent (mortalities)," said Nico Prins.

Prins says he doesn't think the heat will be as bad this summer, but adds that the industry is preparing for the future.

"I think there’s a move towards accepting that oceans are warming and we need to adapt our growing mechanisms to adapt to the changing climate conditions," he said. Top Stories

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