Muscling in on the mussel market

Clayton Hunt
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Hope floats in Connaigre Bay as mollusk yields grow

After 15 years and millions of dollars' worth of pain and frustration, Job Halfyard is seeing positive results in his efforts to raise mussels in Connaigre Bay.

Halfyard is one of the owners of Connaigre Bay Fish Farms. Thanks to his persistence and the work of his Salmonier site manager Dwayne Bungay and his crew, mussel farming in the bay may be poised to join the big leagues.

The Connaigre Bay Fish Farms mussel site was busy when this photo was taken last week, with workers hauling mussels from the water and getting ready to place them in the automatic mussel stripper. - Photo by Clayton Hunt/The Coaster

Connaigre - After 15 years and millions of dollars' worth of pain and frustration, Job Halfyard is seeing positive results in his efforts to raise mussels in Connaigre Bay.

Halfyard is one of the owners of Connaigre Bay Fish Farms. Thanks to his persistence and the work of his Salmonier site manager Dwayne Bungay and his crew, mussel farming in the bay may be poised to join the big leagues.

"We were having terrible results with using local mussel seed in growing mussels in the bay," admits Halfyard, who is from La Scie.

"The seed dropped off the lines and was just not working well for us. However, in the past four to five years we have been experimenting by using mussel seed from the northeast coast of the province, in Connaigre Bay, and (the seed is) working well so far. The new seed seems to react differently in that it grows fast and seems to have stronger bissell threads (which the mussels use to attach themselves).

"The seed could be growing fast in Connaigre Bay because of the warmer temperatures or because there are more nutrients in the water," Halfyard added. "Whatever the reason or reasons, we are getting some fantastic results from the new seed and the meat yields are very high. We may harvest more than 200,000 pounds of mussels in Connaigre Bay this year."

Halfyard said mussel growth is important to Connaigre Bay Fish Farms and Sunrise Fish Farms on the northeast coast.

"We currently have about 12 million pounds of mussels in the water in the Green Bay area in different stages of growth," he said.

"We harvest about two million pounds of mussels a year up here. However, there are times we can't harvest in the winter due to ice conditions. We are trying to couple together the northeast coast and the south coast to give an uninterrupted mussel supply to American, Canadian and European markets.

"In the next five-year period, if everything goes well, we should be able to produce about two million pounds in Connaigre Bay and supply markets on a year-round basis. This will be very important because it will mean we will have a much better chance of (maintaining) our markets with a steady supply of good quality product."

Halfyard said they'd like to expand the mussel operation in Connaigre Bay to a stretch of water next door.

"We have cleaned up the area known as the Reach that was used by an earlier mussel grower in the area so, we can hopefully use it for our operation," he said.

"We are trying to entice government and the people of the Coast of Bays to seriously look at putting a wharf in the Reach area of the bay. ... We have already started constructing a road to this site. If we can get a wharf built ... we can harvest all year round, whereas we can't right now because our present wharf in Salmonier is blocked in by ice in the winter.

"In addition to growing about two million pounds of mussels annually, I also want to expand into finfish projects in Connaigre Bay," he added.

"Right now, in Chile and China, growers are into poly-aquaculture, which means they are raising species such as mussels, salmon, cod and kelp in the same area at the same time. If it can be done in these countries, we can do it in Connaigre Bay as well."

Bungay said Connaigre Fish Farms at Salmonier hopes to harvest 200,000 to 300,000 pounds of mussels this year.

"One of the great advantages of this area for growing mussels is that it only takes one year for mussels to mature from seed to harvest size," he said.

"In addition, our meat yield is in the 43 per cent range, on average. In some areas, an average meat yield of 28 per cent is considered a good result. This area definitely has a great potential for mussel growth."

Organizations: Connaigre Bay Fish Farms, Chile and China

Geographic location: Connaigre Bay, La Scie, Green Bay Bays

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  • shack23
    July 02, 2010 - 13:20

    Execellent news. You put in the time and research, good results will follow. Keep up the good work!!

  • shack23
    July 01, 2010 - 20:02

    Execellent news. You put in the time and research, good results will follow. Keep up the good work!!