SUMMERSIDE – The P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association is urging the federal government not to lift a 15-year moratorium on expanding mussel growing in P.E.I.’s Malpeque Bay.
In 1999, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans placed a moratorium on aquaculture expansion in the bay but has recently hired a consultant to work with fisheries groups to expand mussel operations there.
Mike McGeoghegan, president of the PEIFA said expanding mussel growing could lead to the destruction of the industry in Malpeque Bay.
“They’re looking for an expansion of three per cent in Malpeque Bay, which is actually 1,500 acres,” he said. “The concern for us is it’s a marine-sensitive area. When you add the 1,500 acres, there are reverberations but we don’t know what they are. They add lime to that and there’s mussel tunicate (which are harmful to mussels), oxygen levels and then the extra traffic, extra lines, more pressure on the wharves, there’s just 100 different items.”
McGeoghegan said an eco-system is a very delicate balance.
“Once you get to a certain exponential curve (growth) on that, you start going down the other side and we don’t know what that is and we don’t have the science to say what that is,” he said. “There are (lobster) larvae in that bay and we’re concerned about that.
McGeoghegan said the moratorium is in place now and the PEIFA wants them to hold on to it.
“We don’t have the science to give a yea or a no to it we’re just concerned,” he said. “We’ve red-flagged the thing and that’s what we’re saying right now. Because we don’t have the information, we want to be able to protect the lobster larvae there and the fishermen in that area.”
McGeoghegan said the risk is the expansion could destroy the entire area.
“That’s the unknown,” he said. “It could be five, 10 years down the road. We want to keep the moratorium on. Obviously, that industry’s wanting to expand but at what cost? We can’t jeopardize the eco-system for that expansion. We just can’t.”
The additional mussel lines are a safety issue, McGeoghegan said.
“You could run into them and just the space for the lobster fishers. Once you start putting those lines in you lose space for setting traps. We’ve been here over 100 and we know our system works and it’s worked well and we don’t want to ruin it. All we’re asking for is common sense.”
“This is a marine sensitive area and we have grave concerns of expansion at this time. They need to look at the economics of the lobster industry as well.”