Mussel growers in P.E.I. look forward to getting early start

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By Mitch MacDonald
It appears Mother Nature is pulling up her socks to give mussel growers some extra help this season.

Island Ocean Farms employees Travis Gallant, left, and Cody Barlow brave the elements of a cold ice harvest day on Malpeque Bay. Mary MacKay - The Guardian
Island Ocean Farms employees Travis Gallant, left, and Cody Barlow brave the elements of a cold ice harvest day on Malpeque Bay. Mary MacKay – The Guardian
Growers in the province are looking forward to an early start this year after last spring’s lengthy wait to get back into the water.

Boats are now being prepared with some expecting to be in the water by the end of the month.

Steve Smith of Ocean Echo is one grower looking forward to the early spring.

“We took our boats out of the water pretty well in the first of January and we haven’t been out on the ice or anything like that,” said Smith, who grows mussels out of Tracadie and Seal Cove. “We’re hoping to be out there fairly soon. I don’t mind the short winter myself.”

Smith went to check on ice conditions in Tracadie last week.

That would have been unheard of last year, with most boats not seeing the water until the end of April.

It’s looking like this spring will be a bonus.

“It looks like the weather is going to be pretty warm for the foreseeable future, so we’ll probably be going out a little earlier than usual,” said Smith.

While some growers like Smith are preparing for an early start, some have been ice harvesting throughout the winter.

Ice harvesting is when growers locate their lines with GPS, then use ATVs equipped with a winch to pull out the lines the mussels are cultivated on.

Despite being a mild winter, Gary Rogers, owner of E & G Rogers Mussel Farms, said it was a much better year for ice harvesting compared to last year.

“It was very good, there was no snow. There was a lot of mild weather, but it just melted the snow, the ice was like a skating rink,” said Rogers. “That last rain we had kind of put the screws to it. We might still be there if we hadn’t gotten that last mild rain, since then the ice is too far gone.”

Cold weather alone doesn’t necessarily make good conditions for ice harvesting.

In fact, last winter was one of the worst in the history of ice harvesting on P.E.I. since many areas only had a thin sheet of ice covered by several feet of slush and snow.

However, Rogers’ mind is now focused on preparing his boats to hit the water for an early spring start.

From the looks of it, that could be before the end of the month.

“It’s way earlier than last year; we were still fighting storms this time last year. And our first day (in 2015) was the same day lobster traps were set out,” said Rogers. “We were so late getting going, it was almost like we were three weeks or a month behind all year. This year, we should be a few weeks ahead.”

– The Guardian 

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