Question Period, 18 November 2015
Full transcript available here.

Oyster hatchery and taxpayers’ dollars

Dr. Bevan-Baker: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

We heard yesterday in this House from the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries about the possibility of the establishment of an oyster hatchery in western Prince Edward Island. There has never been a successful oyster hatchery in North America, let alone in our climatic zone which would require heated sea water. In respect to importing seed, if this is indeed part of the intent, the risks could be quite serious especially when you consider that PEI has some of the best oyster seed in the world within our borders and that oysters provide a livelihood for thousands of hardworking Islanders.

A question to the minister. Oyster hatcheries were once common on the east coast of North America, but most of them have been shut down due to a lack of viability. Does the province intend to commit taxpayers’ dollars to this project?

Speaker: The hon. Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Mr. McIsaac: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

Just to correct a little information. We have a very successful hatchery in northern New Brunswick, I think in the area of Caraquet, where when we have the opportunity to go offshore to New Brunswick to get oyster spat we can do that there.

We have been approached with regards to an interest here to put a hatchery here. We feel if this is what the producers want and the business wants to do this, we will support them in any way possible. We don’t have a lot of monies for them, but we’ll certainly encourage that to happen.

From time to time, year to year, we will have a low collection of spat. In years that that happens we sometimes take spat in from outside or we carry it from one part of the province to the other.

If an individual wants to start a hatchery here, we will not discourage it in any way, shape or form. The dollars for that, we are not committing dollars to that, but we encourage any small business that cares to go in that direction.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: The hon. Leader of the Third Party, your first supplementary.

Additional funding to PEI Shellfish Association

Dr. Bevan-Baker: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Thank you, minister, for a little bit of clarity there.

You mentioned this in your first answer. Does the province intend to bolster funding to the PEI Shellfish Association for proven natural enhancement projects which have been in place for over 35 years such as de-silting and the relay of oysters from poorer growing areas and which are known to provide a good return on taxpayers’ dollars?

Speaker: The hon. Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Mr. McIsaac: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

I’m really pleased to get questions with regards to this because this is one of the most delicious food industries in our province, that’s for sure. We have a lot of the great tastes from the fisheries and from agriculture, and we’ll continue to expand upon those.

The oyster fishery in PEI is the largest one in Atlantic Canada. I think we produce over a third or 30% of the oysters. Brings in about 7.3 million pounds, I believe, or $9.3 million to our economy which is absolutely fantastic.

We work through the shellfish association with a grant of upwards of $100,000 and we will continue to put dollars through that and work with them on what programs they feel the best enhancement and best areas to spend those dollars.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: The hon. Leader of the Third Party for your second supplementary question.

Siltification and acidification re: oysters

Dr. Bevan-Baker: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister alluded to the poor collection of spat last year. I’m told that in that area, in the Ellerslie area, there was an unusually high influx of peat moss into the watershed due to a heavy rainfall event.

Has the province investigated the potential impact of this siltation and acidification related to this event on oysters and seed collection in that area?

Speaker: The hon. Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Mr. McIsaac: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

Actually, I was speaking with the hon. Member from O’Leary-Inverness several months ago about this unfortunate happening. We are working with DFO, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, who are monitoring through that and through the Oyster Monitoring Program we are working with our fishers –

Mr. LaVie: (Indistinct). No, you’re not –

Mr. McIsaac: – through the Oyster Monitoring Program for looking at water temperatures, when’s the best time and temperature to collect the spat. We work with them through that.

But on the idea or the issue with regards to the peat moss, we are working with DFO in monitoring that whole issue to see what the contamination may have been and we will continue to work with DFO to make sure that hopefully that doesn’t happen again, but to see what the impact of that really was.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

 

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