Cold winter may have smothered many oysters in Mill River

Eric McCarthy
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Elmer Lewis had Meggison’s Creek all to himself as he tonged for oysters Thursday, the opening day of the spring fishery. During the spring fishery, oyster fishermen tong for oysters on approved contaminated oyster beds. Their catches are then placed onto commercial or private leases to be decontaminated.

Oyster fishing season runs May 1 to June 15 in P.E.I.

MILL RIVER — There was a time when Union P.E.I. oyster fisherman Elmer Lewis would have joined his buddies in Bedeque Bay for the start of the spring oyster fishery.

On Thursday, though, the first day of the 2014 season, Lewis was alone, working a small bed of oysters in Meggison's Creek along the Mill River.

The spring fishery, which runs from May 1 to July 15, is a contaminated fishery. Harvesters must place the oysters they tong onto their own leases, or sell them to buyers who place them on their own leases until they are decontaminated.

Just last spring, dozens of boats were on the Mill River for opening day, but on Thursday morning, Elmer Lewis's dory was the only one in sight.

After 66 years of fishing oysters, Lewis is content to do his tonging closer to home.

He said there were four other dories on the river earlier Thursday morning, fishing further up river, but he added they left because they were finding mostly dead oysters.

The veteran fisherman admitted there were a lot of dead oysters on the bed he was working, too. He blamed the high mortality on the cold winter, suggesting the river ice froze to the bottom and smothered many of the oysters.

But that wasn't the only reason there was light activity on the river. Lewis explained that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans reopened a large portion of the river last year to the clean water fishery, which is conducted in the fall of the year.

Organizations: Union P.E.I., Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Geographic location: MILL RIVER, Bedeque Bay

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