Steep decline of oysters in Tracadie Bay has producers worried

Oyster producers in Tracadie Bay are anxiously awaiting the results of a study by Fisheries and Oceans Canada on the causes of a steep decline in the resource.

During the past season, producers in the region lost at least half of their usual volume.

Producer Ernest McGraw said it's disheartening.

"It certainly eats up all your profit when you lose half your production," he told Radio-Canada.

McGraw believes the winter this year, which was very long, might have played a role.

"It certainly didn't help," he said. "Then, last fall, there were strong winds. I had put 183,000 oysters aside to sell this year. Maybe I'll sell 90,000 of them."

Alix Villeneuve/Radio-Canada
Alix Villeneuve/Radio-Canada

Mayor Denis Losier of the Regional Municipality of Tracadie voiced concerns about the issue during a council meeting earlier this week.

He said elected officials are also eager for the government study to be completed.

"We have too many fishermen and people who live off this economy to afford to ignore the results [of a scientific study] and not work on solutions so that these entrepreneurs don't live the losses they are currently experiencing," he said in French.

According to what the mayor learned from listening to scientists, some parts of the Bay of Tracadie take more than 90 days to clean up, whereas the acceptable threshold is 10 days.

Alix Villeneuve/Radio-Canada
Alix Villeneuve/Radio-Canada

In August 2016, some parts of the bay saw mortality rates of up to 75 per cent, according to the Fisheries and Oceans website.

"Field observations were consistent with an anoxic event (i.e., water conditions characterised by an absence of dissolved oxygen and elevated hydrogen sulfide levels in the water conditions) caused by the eutrophication of the ecological system through an increase in nutrient concentration," it states.

"As eutrophication is a major threat globally, it is important to increase knowledge and understanding of how productivity of cultured stocks might be impacted by the ecosystem in which they exist, and of how aquaculture operations impact the ecosystem."