Mussel growers taking a pass on ice harvest this year

·2 min read
'So far this year we haven't ice-harvested at all, and I don't think we will,' says Jerry Bidgood, general manager of Prince Edward Aqua Farms. (Lisa Prosper/Atlantic Aqua Farms - image credit)
'So far this year we haven't ice-harvested at all, and I don't think we will,' says Jerry Bidgood, general manager of Prince Edward Aqua Farms. (Lisa Prosper/Atlantic Aqua Farms - image credit)

In a typical year, P.E.I. mussel growers would be weeks into the laborious process of making roads over ice-covered bays and drilling holes to harvest mussels.

This is not a typical year. In many bays around the Island there is still no ice cover.

"I've been here 25 years," said Jerry Bidgood, general manager of Prince Edward Aqua Farms.

"There was one year where we ice-harvested for two weeks and another year where we ice-harvested for five days. So far this year, we haven't ice-harvested at all, and I don't think we will."

A special attachment on a tractor drills a hole in the ice. In past years some harvesting through the ice has been necessary.
A special attachment on a tractor drills a hole in the ice. In past years some harvesting through the ice has been necessary.(Lisa Prosper/Atlantic Aqua Farms)

The winter has been exceptionally warm: 4 degrees C above average in December and January and 2 C above in February.

That means it's a lot easier to harvest from boats.

Dana Drummond, farm manager at Atlantic Aqua Farms, said some of the bays where they have mussel leases are frozen, but they have enough crop in open water to keep their processing plants going.

'Problems down the road'

Bidgood said another advantage has been no break in harvesting. In other years there is usually about two weeks where the ice was too thick for boats but too thin for vehicles.

While the weather has made for an easier winter, Drummond said the news is not necessarily all good.

"It could set up other problems down the road, such as warming water temperatures, that type of thing, which is not ideal for crop," he said.

"It's a changing, changing world."

Mussel growers have also been dealing with changing markets in the pandemic over the last year.

Food service markets have been poor, said Drummond, but stronger retail markets have partly made up the difference.

Overall, he said sales are down, but things aren't as bad as they might have been.

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