Mussel farming moratorium in Malpeque Bay reviewed

Talks are underway that could lift a 15-year moratorium on expanding aquaculture in P.E.I.'s Malpeque Bay.
The P.E.I. Aquaculture Alliance would like to see more mussel leases in Malpeque Bay. (CBC)

Talks are underway that could lift a 15-year moratorium on expanding mussel growing in P.E.I.'s Malpeque Bay.

The consultations started in early April.

P.E.I. Mussel Farms has been growing more mussels in Nova Scotia because there isn't any more room to grow in Island waterways, says company president Scott Dockendorff.

"By and large I think most of the estuaries on P.E.I. are pretty much developed as far as mussel aquaculture is concerned," said Dockendorff.

That could change if talks to expand mussel growing in Malpeque Bay are successful.

The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans put a moratorium on aquaculture expansion in that bay in 1999. But DFO has hired a hired a consultant to work with fisheries groups to look at adding up to 600 hectares of new lease space.

P.E.I. Aquaculture Alliance executive director Ann Worth said Malpeque Bay is the only place on the Island with good expansion potential.

"Like any good industry I think you need to continue to revisit decisions," said Worth.

"Is there any future opportunities here, and I think a modest, well-managed growth is certainly something that is really under discussion right now."

In a 2008 report, lobster fishermen expressed concern about adding mussel leases in the bay, noting lobster spawning occurs there. Oyster fishermen also expressed concern about their operations being disrupted.

Currently about seven per cent of Malpeque Bay is taken up with mussel and oyster leases. A 600-hectare expansion would be a further three per cent.

Worth said consultations will wrap up in two months, and this is only step one in what would be a lengthy process before any new mussel lines could be added to Malpeque Bay.

Consultations with recreational boaters and communities around the bay would come later in the process, said Worth.