Developing the Native Basket Cockle for Aquaculture

We are seeing very promising results for developing the native basket cockle (Clinocardium nuttallii) as a new species for aquaculture in BC.  For several years now research teams at the CSR have worked on developing hatchery and now grow-out techniques.
Cultured Clinocardium Nuttali
Cockles in off-bottom tray culture on the Deep Bay Field Station Farm site.

More project details follow.


The native basket cockle, Clinocardium nuttallii, has a wide distribution on the Pacific coast of North America from San Diego to the Bering Sea, with a disjunctive population reported in Hokkaido, Japan. Although this species can be found around the coast of British Columbia (BC) on sandy to muddy shores, it is generally not present in great abundance. In BC there is significant commercial interest in basket cockles as an aquaculture species, as a result of their relatively fast growth rate, ability to utilize different substrata, adaptation to the cold waters of BC, and importance as a preferred First Nations’ food group. They represent an opportunity for diversification in the shellfish industry and to maximise lease productivity, with potential local and worldwide markets for fresh or value-added products.


Previously the Centre for Shellfish Research has conducted research on broodstock conditioning, embryogenesis as well as larval and post-larval development in the hatchery stages, including investigations of diet preferences, optimal rations, stocking densities and rearing temperatures. However there is little information available on optimal field on-growing conditions for this species. Currently research is being conducted on the on-growing stage of production, combining both laboratory and field experiments to examine post-settlement movement in different substrata, seed production optimization, culture operation (intertidal versus suspension), and the effects of stocking density and depth on growth performance and survival.

Currently there are two year classes of cockle seed transplanted at Deep Bay, from spawning events in 2008 and in 2009. On the intertidal lease at Deep Bay three size classes (1cm, 2cm, 3cm) at three densities (5, 10, 35 and 70% surface coverage) from the 2008 class have been deployed, along with three densities of 2009 generated animals (5, 10, 35 and 70% surface coverage). In addition, on the off-bottom culture lease site we are investigating the effects of size (1cm, 2cm, 3cm), density (5, 10, 35 and 70% surface coverage) and also depth (2m, 4m, 6m) on growth, survival, fouling and shell morphology. This research aims to provide valuable recommendations for the management and sustainable production of basket cockles, through the responsible development of a new native aquaculture species of cultural significance.

Experimental replicates of Native cockles being assembled for deployment from our new generation raft prototypes.

This project is funded by the Aquaculture Collaborative Research and Development Program (ACRDP) through the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (Project No. F1693-08-137) in collaboration with industrial partner Evening Cove Oysters Ltd.

For more information contact

Dr. Helen Gurney Smith
Research Scientist
Head of Shellfish Health & Husbandry Program
Center for Shellfish Research,
Vancouver Island University
900 5th St, Nanaimo. BC V9R 5S5


2 Responses to “Developing the Native Basket Cockle for Aquaculture”

  1. A great day at Deep Bay « VIU Deep Bay Field Station Updates Says:

    […] Dr. Helen Gurney-Smith fielded the Prime Minister’s questions about the shellfish displayed in a small aquarium, and explained her research on genomics and new species development. […]

  2. Why has commercial culture of cockles not taken off? | VIU Deep Bay Marine Field Station Updates Says:

    […] Another photo with a scale reference – the calipers are set to 39mm the “legal” size for Manila clams which generally takes a minimum of three growing season to achieve. Back in the 1980′s many attempts were made to establish techniques for growing Manila clams off-bottom with no success. Something our research has shown is possible for cockles. […]

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