Jason Simpson, owner of Simpson Aqua Ventures Ltd., was recently recognized as the Oyster Grower of the Year at the 2016 PEI International Shellfish Festival.
“I am proud to be in the industry and happy to be recognized this year,” says Jason. “The industry is exciting, the opportunities are endless, and we need to continue to be a responsible and sustainable industry.”
His company grows mussels and oysters in bays surrounding Savage Harbour, and other sites in Kings and Queens County. He has been in the industry since 1990. “I was working out west and heard about an opportunity to buy a lease and came home to begin my career in the industry.”
Jason says there are 400 to 500 bottom and off-bottom oyster lease holders on PEI. “The oyster industry continues to adopt a lot of new innovation, technology, and efficiencies that are increasing the production and value of our product.”
He uses the off-bottom production methods to improve oyster growth, shape, and survival rates. “It takes up to three years to grow our oysters to market size.
“Our season is from April until December, weather permitting. We work on the waters taking the oysters and mussels through various stages as they grow and get them ready to sell. During the winter months, I focus on maintenance and marketing.”
About the staff
He has a crew of about seven. “One of the guys is from Slovakia, some are local, and others are from other provinces. The number of staff has increased over the years because the business has been growing. I advertise through Kijiji the odd time.
“I am really blessed to have a great crew who work hard to make this company what it is today. They are tough, go out in all kinds of weather, and work long hours when need be without complaining. They treat the job like it is their own company. They have a no-waste attitude and take special care of the products.”
“Some of our guys make more than they ever would going back and forth to western Canada. I pay three to four dollars above minimum wage for people entering the industry and go from there.”
Jason says the fall of the year is challenging because they don’t know how many more weeks they have before ice in the waters becomes a problem. “In the spring and the fall we just have to make sure we have enough staff to handle the work.
“But at the end of the season the work always gets done. That’s what agriculture and aquaculture has in common.
“They are farming the land and we are farming the waters, but the elements are out of our control, and all we can do is to try to keep the pace.
“Over the last few years, I have noticed that second and third generations are remaining with the oyster industry. There is a stronger interest and pride in this industry.”
For more about Simpson Aqua Ventures Ltd., call 902-393-5750, email [email protected].