by Heidi Riley
The Aquaculture industry grows and harvests farmed seafood, including shellfish and finfish. Aquaculture also drives a thriving processing, packing, shipping, and export industry.
The PEI Aquaculture Alliance is an industry association that represents three separate industries: mussel, oyster, and finfish growers. The Alliance helps members promote the aquaculture industry and is a voice to speak with government about the issues that affect members.
How has COVID-19 affected the Aquaculture industry?
“Initially, COVID-19 had a very dramatic effect on the mussel and oyster sectors,” says Peter Warris, Director of Projects and Industry Liaison, PEI Aquaculture Alliance.
Peter says that a large majority of sales of mussels and especially oysters go to the hospitality industry, and with restaurants closing down due to the pandemic, sales were affected. “Initially, sales of mussels went down by 85 percent, and sales of oysters dropped almost 100 percent. But sales are now beginning to improve.”
“COVID-19 forced many aquaculture growers to hire fewer people and do the work themselves,” says Peter. “Farmed oysters, mussels and finfish still need to be cared for, even if there are fewer sales. In many instances, the workload has actually increased, because growers are holding on to more product that is not being sold.
“For some in the industry, their problem is not being able to find enough people to fill available job positions. HR and labour has definitely been an issue for years. An HR report was done in 2014, and we are in the process of updating it now. Finding enough employees is a high priority for the industry.”
Aquaculture provides jobs year-round, but there can be seasonal variations in work volume. The weeks running up to Christmas can be very busy, but winter can be a low period. Processors are still in operation, but once the ice sets in, labour work is cut back. In spring, things gear up again.
“Fall is a busy time, which makes it problematic as students are returning to university,” says Peter. “Therefore, there is an increased need for workers.”
Aquaculture jobs in demand
- Entry-level farm labourers at mussel farms during socking season
- Entry-level boat crew. “For those willing to stay on with one operation, there is opportunity to stay on and advance to boat captain.”
- Technical roles such as quality assurance, lab work, hatchery technician
- “Finfish operations on the Island are all land based, and the jobs tend to be more technical in nature.”
Nova Scotia Community College
New Brunswick Community College
“Historically, the aquaculture industry has been known as offering low-paying jobs,” says Peter. “There are still entry-level minimum wage jobs, but for those employees who are dependable, there are opportunities for higher earnings.
“The aquaculture industry supports a whole range of other industries, including trucking and transport, suppliers, and local fabricating shops. A lot of spin-off economic development comes from the industry, such as food service, food development, and experiential tourism for those interested in learning where their food comes from.
“As part of PEI’s strategy around being Canada’s Food Island, Aquaculture has seen great success providing some of the cornerstone food items that promote PEI.”
For a list of jobs available at PEI Aquaculture, visit the jobs page on the PEI Aquaculture
Association website at www.aquaculturepei.com/employment.php
Job seekers can visit the site, post their resume, and indicate what area they are interested in.
For more about aquaculture on PEI, visit www.employmentjourney.com/industries/aquaculture