PEI

P.E.I. halibut farm reels in $850K in government funding

A halibut farm in central P.E.I. is expanding its operations with the help of money from ACOA and the P.E.I. government.

ACOA and P.E.I. government invest in halibut hatchery

Halibut PEI has been selling farmed halibut since 2009. (Halibut PEI)

A halibut farm in Victoria-by-the-Sea P.E.I. is expanding its operations with the help of $850,000 in loans from ACOA and the P.E.I. government.

Halibut PEI has been operating since 2009, buying young fish and growing them to full size for sale in land-based, salt water wells.

When you grow halibut in a facility such as ours, you can go to the customers and offer it to them 12 months a year.— Jim Dunphy

The company plans to expand by building a hatchery, allowing it to move one step back in the production process, buying eggs instead juvenile fish.

Maintaining a steady supply of five-gram fish, which Halibut PEI has been growing into about 3,000-gram or six-pound fish, has been a struggle lately, according to president Jim Dunphy.

"If you depend on others to produce them there are going to be timelines that they may not necessarily meet," he said.

"They could have technical issues, they could have other commitments to other customers and what not, so we wanted to take those variables away and put that in-house." 

Rearing its own juvenile fish will allow an expansion of Halibut PEI staff from seven to 12 when hatchery work ramps up this fall. (Laura Chapin/CBC )

Hatchery rearing to start in fall 

Renovations to the Halibut PEI plant are already completed, and Dunphy expects to commission equipment in late July. He hopes to be rearing the first batch of eggs this fall. 

"This innovative land-based aquaculture business has shown great potential to make a significant contribution to the rural economy of Atlantic Canada," said local MP Wayne Easter in a written release Tuesday.

The hatchery will be built with the assistance of a $495,000 loan from ACOA and a $355,000 loan from the P.E.I. Century Fund.

Currently, seven full-time staff are employed at Halibut PEI and Dunphy said another five will be hired when the hatchery is fully operational this fall. 

Halibut PEI president Jim Dunphy says having a more reliable supply of juvenile halibut by rearing it in-house should allow the company to expand from its 70 tonnes it's producing now. (Laura Chapin/CBC )

Customers in Ontario, Quebec

About 70 tonnes of halibut is currently produced at the P.E.I. plant every year, and Dunphy hopes to be able to expand that significantly now that the company will be able to produce its own juvenile fish.

"We turn customers away all the time for our halibut," said Dunphy.

MP Wayne Easter says Halibut PEI innovations can make a significant contribution to the rural economy. (Laura Chapin/CBC)

"When you grow halibut in a facility such as ours, you can go to the customers and offer it to them 12 months a year, and so we have to be careful and cognisant that we don't sell out our supply too early."

Most of Halibut PEI's customers are in Ontario, Quebec and further west, according to Dunphy, but one restaurant owner in P.E.I. has also been a loyal customer from the beginning.

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