Booming P.E.I. business born from oyster seed sales

Sales of oyster seed from the Bideford shellfish hatchery, owned by Lennox Island First Nation, are going so well the facility is going to expand and hire more staff.

Hatchery has orders for seed for 18 million oysters next year, far exceeding expectations

Technicians at the Bideford shellfish hatchery in Ellerslie, P.E.I., identify spawning oysters. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

Sales of oyster seed from P.E.I.'s Bideford shellfish hatchery, owned by Lennox Island First Nation, are going so well the facility will expand and more staff will be hired this winter.

The facility in Ellerslie was launched by the First Nation last spring with funding from the federal government and equipment supplied by the province.

"It is nice seeing my band investing in the community and trying new things," said Tim Bernard, one of the hatchery technicians. 

The hatchery grows and sells seed for the Island's public oyster beds and oyster growers.

It started producing oyster spat, or larvae, last April, and now employs five people, four of whom are band members. 

'Demand's just going to get higher and higher,' says hatchery technician Tim Bernard. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

The hatchery has orders for seed for 18 million oysters next year — far more than was forecast in its original business plan. 

The hatchery plans to expand this winter and will likely hire another two employees before spring. 

"At the end of the day this place can definitely be at the point where we have this whole place filled with people, because demand is just going to get higher and higher," Bernard predicted. 

'Very happy'

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is also renting part of the facility to do shellfish research.

"We want to see the preference of the larvae to settle on different substrates in the wild," said DFO's John Davidson.

Scientists are testing three collection surfaces now used by oyster growers as well as natural shell. 

It hopes the tests will be done by mid-January, but plans to do more research there in future. 

The larvae now being hatched in Bideford weren't available on P.E.I. previously, Davidson noted, so DFO is "very happy" with the trials and the facility. 

With files from Brian Higgins