FISHERY PROFILE

Eastern Oyster by Tongs

Prince Edward Island — Shellfish Areas

PRIMARY SPECIES:

Eastern Oyster

FISHERY OPENINGS:

May 01 - Jul 15

Sep 15 - Dec 01

Oyster Tongs

Fish harvesters use long, hand-held stainless-steel tongs to harvest oysters. “Tonging” remains the only legal way to commercially harvest wild oysters in Prince Edward Island. The tongs look like a pair of rakes with long handles fastened together, scissor-fashion, about one-third the way up from the rakes. Harvesters work from small dories using the tongs to pluck oysters from the sea bed. They typically harvest in fine weather and in shallow waters such as inlets, rivers and bays.

Harvesting Method

Oyster Tongs

Tongs consist of a pair of stainless-steel heads and wooden handles that range from six to 16 feet long. The heads are two to three feet wide with teeth spaced one and a half inches apart like a rake. The handles are joined together so that the two rakes can close together to pick up oysters. Fish harvesters choose the length of the handle depending on the depth of the water. From small dories, they place the tongs over the bow and work the handles back and forth in a jerking motion to pluck oysters between the teeth of the tongs. The tongs are then lifted off the bottom and oysters are dumped on a culling board where they are graded. Undersized oysters are returned to the sea. It is difficult to handle tongs in choppy waters and so this is a fair-weather harvesting method.

Oyster Tongs

In Prince Edward Island, 978 licences are issued for the autumn fishery and 863 for the spring fishery. Fishing vessels are small dories with one fish harvester aboard. The autumn fishery occurs from mid-September to mid-December, and the summer fishery occurs from May 1 to July 31. Tongs are used in calm, sheltered waters. 

Conservation Measures

The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans manages the wild oyster commercial  fishery a multi-year integrated management plan and annual harvest plans. The fishery is managed by controlling harvesting effort such as limiting the number of permanent harvesting licences. A number of measures address conservation, including:

  • a limitation on the number of licensed oyster harvesters
  • regulations on the size and design of tongs
  • restrictions on retaining oysters under three inches long
  • catch logbooks
  • seasonal openings and closings
  • daily fishing closures from sunset to sunrise, and all day Sunday
  • licensing which restricts harvesters to specific areas
  • area closures

In this lobster fishing area, fish harvesters actively participate in scientific data collection and research such as:

  • a comprehensive data collection system on catches
  • scientific sampling of lobsters at sea
  • maintaining catch logbooks and scientific field notebooks
FISHERY DETAILS

Prince Edward Island

MAP
ECO-RATINGS / CERTIFICATIONS

SeaChoice - Best Choice

Ocean Wise - No rating

FISHERY OPENINGS

May 01 - Jul 15

Sep 15 - Dec 01

RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans manages this fishery under an integrated fisheries management plan.

FISH STOCK STATUS

For the most recent stock status, visit the website of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans' Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat.

Quality and Handling

All oysters cultivated or harvested in Prince Edward Island are called “Malpeque,” although many seafood companies have created their own local brands by cultivating a distinct flavour, texture and look to their oysters. Oysters are harvested live from rivers, bays and estuaries surrounding Prince Edward Island. The minimum size for an oyster is three inches. After grading the live oysters, 100 oysters are bundled into a “peck”. Four pecks are then put into one box, which is sold to local processors. 

Harvesting Area

The bays and estuaries of Prince Edward Island provide optimal growing conditions for Eastern oysters. Besides the wild commercial fishery using tongs, there are approximately 7,100 acres of marine area leased for oyster production with more than 580 lease holders. About 1,475 acres is used for suspended oyster culture and 6,000 acres for bottom culture.

Members

Food Info Eastern Oyster


TASTING NOTES

  • Colour: creamy white meat
  • Texture: firm texture
  • Flavour: A sweet, mild taste.
  • Perfect serve: Oysters are popular served raw on the half-shell, but are also served baked, steamed, grilled or in specialty dishes such as Oysters Rockefeller. The flavour, texture and look of raw oysters reflects cultivation methods and local ecological conditions. Shucked oysters can be sautéed, steamed, grilled, or used in soups or other dishes. Oysters require very little cooking time and should be heated slowly. Regardless of the cooking method used, cook only till the mantle begins to curl. 
HOW TO CHOOSE A QUALITY EASTERN OYSTER