Newfoundland’s sole oyster growing operation expands
By Liza Mayer
One year after the official launch of the first commercially cultivated oyster in Newfoundland and Labrador, Merasheen Oyster Farms Inc is set to grow and expand its operations.
The company, which had been producing oysters in Placentia Bay for the last few years, is adding production to Notre Dame Bay.
Owner Juan Roberts, the only oyster farmer in the province, says the move is expected to result in a higher-quality product. The shallower, warmer waters of Notre Dame Bay are likely to speed up the usual five-year growing process – resulting in a better oyster product reaching markets more quickly.
“Oysters are a higher value shellfish and we believe when things improve with restaurants and the economy and an eventual easing up on restrictions, we expect oyster sales to improve and increase. We believe that our cold clean water will give our oysters that increased flavor that will set us apart from rest of world,” said Roberts.
A non-repayable $206,400 contribution from the provincial government will assist with oyster cultivation research in Notre Dame Bay using specialized equipment, such as the floating upweller system, and dedicated oyster growth cages. The support will help the company continue its growth and development in a very competitive marketplace.
Providing businesses such as Merasheen Oyster Farms with the tools they need to compete and succeed in global markets is important to the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. Increased export activity helps create jobs and economic benefits for all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, it said.
While oyster aquaculture is a very small part of the aquaculture industry in the province, the industry at large contributed $961 million in total economic activity to Newfoundland in 2018; $395 million in GDP; $204 million in wages; and more than 3,500 person years of employment, according to latest data from Statistics Canada.
“Through proper development, there is potential for oysters to be a significant commercial product in our province, one that could grow our economy for years to come,” said the Minister of Industry, Energy and Technology, Andrew Parsons.
“The unique growing conditions in Placentia Bay create an oyster with a distinct flavor that is appreciated throughout North America. The expansion of Merasheen Oyster Farms in to Notre Dame Bay will lead to increased economic opportunities for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and allow for increased product exposure to overseas markets,” said the Minister of Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture, Derrick Bragg.