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A Prince Edward Island biologist says the cold winter could help kill off the invasive turnicate, which harms mussels. (CBC)

The colder than normal temperatures this winter could be good news for the shellfish industry on Prince Edward Island.

Cold winters tend to kill off tunicates, a pesky invasive species that attaches itself to mussels, draining them of nutrients and pulling them off their mesh sleeves.

Aaron Ramsay is an aquaculture biologist with the provincial government.

"That's something that would be of benefit to the mussel producers," he said. "Any help or reduction in tunicate fouling is going to be a big help to them."

“It'll be a reduction in the amount of labour and time they have to put into that activity and they can focus those resources elsewhere.”

Ramsay said there’s no guarantee more tunicates will be killed off. He said he'll get a better sense when he inspects mussels in the spring.

The P.E.I. mussel farming industry has been hit hard since 1998 by four invasive species of tunicate, according to Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Efforts have focused on minimizing the spread and impact of tunicates.