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Oyster seed spreading commences

Oyster fisherman Cecil Arsenault takes a break fron tonging to watch a P.E.I. Shellfish Association barge spread oyster seed Friday morning.
Oyster fisherman Cecil Arsenault takes a break fron tonging to watch a P.E.I. Shellfish Association barge spread oyster seed Friday morning.

CASCUMPEC The P.E.I. Shellfish Association spread its first load of oyster seed of the season Friday morning.

Project workers delivered close to 120 peck of year-old oysters to public grounds across from Arsenault’s Wharf in Cascumpec Bay. Another load was to be spread in the Mill River later in the day.

Kenneth Arsenault, new president of the association, said oyster fishermen were enthusiastic upon learning Thursday that oyster enhancement work was about to get underway.

There had been uncertainty about the enhancement work earlier this year, as the cages containing seed from last year’s spat hadn’t been tended to.

Arsenault said Provincial Fisheries raised the cages this spring but there were no workers hired by the association to tend to the cages after that.

“They’re supposed to be flipped every couple of weeks,” Arsenault noted. “Nothing was done over the summer.”

Activity got back on track over the summer following the election of a new board of directors for the association and provincial funding being made available to hire staff.

“The oysters are fine, but the cages are a mess,” Arsenault said.

Frank Hansen, hired to coordinate the enhancement activities, acknowledged there is a lot of catch-up work to be done with the cages and workers essentially have to cut the bags of seed from the cages.

Arsenault said some of the seed has grown to normal one-ear size but much of it is smaller than normal.
He said it normally takes three to four years for year-old seed to grow to marketable size. He estimates much of this year’s supply could take a year longer to come of size. Whereas fishermen need to tong about 100 oysters to fill a peck, Arsenault estimates between 700 to 1,000 year-old oysters are in the pecks being spread on public grounds. 

Despite the small size, it’s all getting spread so that the cages can be cleaned out and made ready for next year’s spat collection. There was no spat collection this year.

Hansen, who, until two years ago, had spent 33 years in oyster enhancement, said they normally collected enough spat to fill all the bags and cages so that it could grow for a year prior to being spread on the public grounds. Small seed, directly from the rest of the collectors, about 15 to 20 truckloads, would be spread onto the public grounds. “None of that got spread; no collectors got put out,” he said. “They didn’t have the help and it just didn’t work this year.”

Hansen estimates workers – four have been hired and a fifth starts next week – have gotten over about one-sixth of the cages. He said about 500 more cages still have to be tended to, about six more weeks of work. The seed will be spread as it becomes available.

To help get enhancement back on track, Arsenault said the Province is purchasing 1,800 peck of seed from a commercial grower. Hansen and his crew will spread it starting next Friday. Some of the seed will be spread in the Charlottetown area. The association also plans to spread seed in Kildare River and Foxley River. Arsenault said the Province has also arranged for extensive monitoring of that seed.


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