Freezing temperatures, storms costing oyster growers thousands of dollars this winter

Oyster grows on P.E.I. are ready for this winter to be over after they say they've lost thousands of dollars because of harsh conditions.

'It costs more money to get your product in to get them out to market'

Oyster companies like Five Star Shellfish in Ellerslie, P.E.I., are experiencing quieter harvesting days this winter. That's because thick ice has broken equipment used to get to the oyster beds. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

Oyster grows on P.E.I. are ready for this winter to be over after they say they've lost thousands of dollars because of harsh conditions.

Gordon Jeffery is the co-owner of Five Star Shellfish and said he has yet to find a chainsaw this year that will cut through the ice where his oyster beds are in Ellerslie.

"As soon as you get that much ice, over 30 inches of ice, your saws are getting wet and we had three of them blow up on us," he said.

Jeffery has had to replace each saw at about $1,500 each. On top of additional labour costs, he said this winter has been expensive.

"Everything's breaking down and everything's freezing up at that point and it costs more money to get your product in to get them out to market."

Gordon Jeffery, co-owner of Five Star Shellfish, says he's lost thousands of dollars in broken equipment and additional labour costs this year. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

Usually Jeffery and his team at Five Star Shellfish would harvest as many oysters as possible early in the season, but he said more customers want them to be as fresh as possible. That means fishing throughout the entire winter, but said it's not always profitable.

"It's just frustrating, but basically in order to run your business you have to keep your suppliers happy."

Thousands invested in equipment

Jeffery said this winter has also been "so cold on the ice" there are some days that the company can't fish at all.

The conditions have Jeffery considering investing in a hydraulic chainsaw, which are able to work in the water but can also cost up to $25,000. 

It's an investment that Raspberry Point Oysters in Cavendish made a few years ago.

James Power is the general manager and said the company has spent tens of thousands of dollars on equipment to help them cut through thick ice and harvest oysters throughout the winter.

Storms delaying deliveries

But the winter has caused problems for the company this season in another way: delayed deliveries.

"What happens is the trucks would leave P.E.I. and get stuck in New Brunswick and other places, or sometimes they can't even get off P.E.I. and so that would push back an order that a customer had," Power said. 

James Power, general manager of Raspberry Point Oysters, says stormy weather this winter has meant consistent delayed deliveries. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

Power estimates that orders have been delayed every few weeks this winter because of weather. With delayed deliveries, he said some customers have started to purchase smaller orders.

"Everybody knows that there's only so much you can do with Mother Nature, but it does become frustrating," he said. 

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