Prince Edward Island remains committed to enhancing the province’s wild oyster fishery, says Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Alan McIsaac.
The veteran minister was questioned on the issue in the legislature by Tignish-Palmer Road MLA Hal Perry, who chairs the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Fisheries. It proved to be a year of upheaval for the industry as the government moved away from its long-standing practice of providing funding to the P.E.I. Shellfish Association to carry out enhancement activities.
McIsaac said in mid-August the department took the measure because the association failed to provide all the paperwork for 2016 enhancement program. This year, the department issued a request for proposals to source local oyster seed and to spread this seed on public fishing areas.
In the wake of the government action, Brenda Campbell resigned as association president and several other directors also submitted their resignations. Kenneth Arsenault was elected as the president during a special meeting in late August, and he is joined on the board by Loman MacLean, Bob MacLeod, Doug Boylan, Scott Dennis, and James Barlow.
“The oyster fishery is very important to my district of Tignish-Palmer Road, as well, to all of Prince Edward Island,” Perry says.
“We did have an issue in the past year where the board was dismantled, but we have a new board in place. We have a great president from the member’s riding himself, and the whole board has put a lot of emphasis in restructuring this program,” McIsaac says.
McIsaac says his department has been working with the association on putting together a business plan and governance training. Perry calls that news “encouraging” but wants a commitment about will happen in 2018 and beyond.
“We are certainly dedicated to the shellfish industry. The enhancement program is still there; we provide $100,000 a year and they also receive about $100,000 from Skills P.E.I.,” McIsaac says. “Just in this past year, we went out and got 18,000 pecks of oysters and spread them in three different areas across the province. We have UPEI working with them to monitor these areas to make sure they’re growing properly, and we will continue to work with the shellfish industry because we need this industry to grow and be strong.