Shellfish experiment underway

  • May. 2, 2005 8:00 a.m.

By Heidi Bevington–Haida Fisheries is experimenting with mussels, scallops and oysters to see if shellfish farming could be a new industry for the islands.
Haida Fisheries is managing the experiment on behalf of Skidegate and Old Massett. Since July 2003, shellfish have been growing at six sites in four locations around the islands, said Bart DeFreitas, Haida Fisheries biologist, with one site at the north end of Graham Island, two in Rennell Sound, two in Skidegate Channel and one in Cumshewa.
Each has 15 basketball-sized floats arranged in a row. A single long line of rope hangs in loops below the floats, with a series of traps or nets suspended from the ropes in the water.
This is a pilot project to monitor growth rates and survival, said Mr. DeFreitas, and no commercial harvest has been made. Pacific oysters are doing well.
“They grow but cannot reproduce in our cold waters,” said Mr. DeFreitas. Blue and Mediterranean mussels as well as Japanese scallops are also being tested.
These shellfish are introduced species on the islands, said Mr. DeFreitas, and Haida Fisheries is being careful with them. The experimental sites have been set up in areas where indigenous species are not common, and the four species being used haven’t appeared to breed well in northern waters.
The Turning Point Initiative, a joint venture between First Nations and the province, has paid for the study, and the project will continue as long as there is funding for it, said Mr. DeFreitas.

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