PEI

Mussel boat pulled off sandbar after capsizing near Malpeque Harbour

A mussel boat that capsized and grounded on a sandbar near Malpeque Harbour Friday morning has been towed away.

4 people successfully pulled off boat

A mussel boat capsized near Malpeque Harbour on Friday morning. (Submitted by Jerry Bidgood)

A mussel boat that capsized and grounded on a sandbar near Malpeque Harbour Friday morning has been towed away.

The boat got stuck on a sandbar close to shore at Cabot Beach. A crew member on one of the boats that responded said the boat was capsized and completely flooded when he arrived just after 9:30 a.m.

It wasn't until just after 2 p.m. that crews were able pump out the water, pull the boat off the sandbar and tow it away.

Jerry Bidgood, the general manager of Prince Edward Aqua Farms, said four people were successfully pulled off the boat earlier Friday morning.

Sixteen tanks of mussels on the boat washed overboard and Bidgood said crews were working to recover the empty tanks, which were washing up at Cabot Beach Provincial Park.

Sixteen tanks of mussels on the boat washed overboard. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

He said the mussels — worth between $15,000 and $20,000 — are gone.

Navigating the water is an ongoing issue due to sandbars in Malpeque Bay each year, he added. 

"We've been dealing with this issue for a long time now," Bidgood said. "DFO and our local politicians and the department of fisheries are well aware of the situation up there.

"It seems like after lobster season every year, we work out there every day we have nine and 10 boats out there every day bringing mussels in for the plant to keep people employed and yet they allow the channel to get closed in and it's an accident waiting to happen every year."

In an emailed statement, DFO said the area where the incident occurred was dredged in the spring for the start of the lobster season and the department has since surveyed the channel twice, the last time being on July 31.

The department said the channel was scheduled to be dredged again in mid-September.

When wind, tide and wave conditions are favourable next week, the site will be surveyed and then a decision will be made about the timing of the next dredging.

'Haven't seen anything like it'

People lined the shore at Cabot Beach Friday afternoon, watching with binoculars as two other mussel boats tried to free the vessel from the sandbar.

Matthew Smith, provincial lifeguard coordinator, said the boat was stuck when his staff arrived at the beach in the morning.

"Sometimes they have a bit of a hard time getting in this channel," said Smith.

'We haven't seen anything like this, or at least I haven't, at this park,' says Matthew Smith, provincial lifeguard coordinator. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

"We haven't seen anything like this, or at least I haven't, at this park."

He said the hard work by other fishermen to free the boat is a sign of how tightly knit together the P.E.I. fishing community is.

More P.E.I. news

With files from Brittany Spencer

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