08/21/2012 09:49 EDT | Updated 10/21/2012 05:12 EDT

Invasive green crab could be fish food

Researchers at UPEI are hoping to turn an invasive species that's threatening the shellfish industry into fish food.

Green crabs are an aggressive, invasive crustacean. They are experts at getting into shellfish, and so are a growing problem for the shellfish industry.

Mary McNiven, a professor of animal nutrition at the UPEI's Atlantic Veterinary College, said it is difficult to scrape protein in usable amounts from the tiny crabs.

"When they're so small, obviously you're going to have - if you're talking about surface area - you're going to have a lot more shell to the amount of protein that's inside," said McNiven.

"So they're quite a low value in the whole scheme of things. And that's why we have to find a product from them that actually pays to harvest them."

McNiven is working with specialized equipment to reduce the crab meat to a fish food powder. She is also considering ways that the crabs could be turned into food for humans.

The project is funded by the P.E.I. government.