Community Profile: Prince Edward Island Coastal Region

For generations, the production of blue mussels has sustained smaller communities along the northern and eastern coastlines of Prince Edward Island. The industry provides a year-round source of income and employment to local residents, and generates wealth across the region with its strong export market.

In 2010, the Prince Edward Island aquaculture industry paid approximately $38.7 million in salaries, wages, and employer contributions to the 1,200 people who worked directly and indirectly in aquaculture operations. Mussel production accounted for most of this total.

Mussels on the Island are farmed using the longline system in 19 coastal areas, such as Malpeque Bay, St. Mary’s Bay, Hillsborough Bay, and Broughton River. The mussels are farmed during every season, including winter, with mussel farmers continually caring for their crop by regularly inspecting and cleaning the socks.

Mussels take12 to 24 months to reach market size. Once harvested, mussels are transported to processing plants to be stripped from the sock, de-clumped, washed, and graded. There are seven provincially licensed and federally registered processing plants in Prince Edward Island where mussels are prepared and inspected prior to sale to the market.

The mussel is Canada’s top shellfish aquaculture export, valued at $41.3 million in 2013. PEI is largely responsible for this total, with Island exports worth approximately $35.6 million in 2013.

Blue mussel production in Prince Edward Island has increased significantly over the past 30 years. The total production volume of blue mussels was almost 23,000 tonnes or over 50.7 million pounds in 2013 – up from 100,000 pounds in 1980. The industry continues to be a vital contributor to the Island’s economy and the communities along the northern/eastern shores.