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Mussel boat sinks off Malpeque Harbour

A full mussel boat ran aground as it tried to return to port off Malpeque Harbour Friday afternoon. All aboard were rescued.
A full mussel boat ran aground as it tried to return to port off Malpeque Harbour Friday afternoon. All aboard were rescued. - Contributed

A mussel boat heavy with cargo ran aground in Malpeque Bay Friday morning.

The vessel took on water and partially sank, sending crates of mussels floating off and away.

There were four crew members on aboard and all were rescued.

Jerry Bidgood, general manager of Prince Edward Aqua Farms, said the boat had just collected a load of product from the growing lines and was on its way back to port when it hit the sandbar and sunk.

“We lost all the mussels and the tanks and all that stuff’s gone overboard,” said Bidgood. “We’re out here now trying get the boat off. But we’re not having much luck.”

Salvagers were eventually able to free the boat and tow it to shore around mid-afternoon Friday. Mussel crates littered Cabot Beach Provincial Park for the day and visitors set up their beach chairs and towels around them.

Fishermen have long complained of the need for more dredging in Malpeque Bay. There is regular dredging at certain times of year around Malpeque Harbour, but the channel tends to fill in quickly. The area is a busy aquaculture area all year and is used by lobster fishermen in the spring.

Fisherman Martin MacDonald, who has also represented P.E.I. cultured mussel growers, said Friday morning’s sinking was just the same old story with Malpeque Harbour and should come as a surprise to no one.

The federal government recently spent $500,000 on a study to consider options for fixing Malpeque Harbour long-term. One of the options discussed was building a new harbour and bypassing the need for a channel altogether.

MacDonald said Malpeque Harbour Authority voted unanimously to support that option. To date there has been no movement on it from the federal government on what is estimated to be a $22 million project.  

“It’s sad because it’s going to take somebody getting killed before they ever do anything,” he said.

“The leg work is done on what we want, what we need and what will work – we’re just missing the government willingness to move ahead.”

The Journal Pioneer contacted the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for comment, but none was received before deadline.

Colin.MacLean@JournalPioneer.com

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