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Fukui's Monthly News Letter

Thimble Bay Farms

One of the many benefits of the career path I have chosen is the travel and meeting so many interesting entrepreneurial aquaculture people from around the world.

Back in the end of May and early June I had spent a week with our Newfoundland representative Bill Spurrell of AIMS Ltd. visiting sites, talking to growers, and discussing the growth that seems to be finally taking advantage of the potential of Newfoundland Shellfish Aquaculture.

The culmination of the trip was the combined Aquaculture Association of Canada (AAC) and the Newfoundland Aquaculture Association (NAC) conference and trade show.

The conference itself was without a doubt the most exciting and positive show I have attended anywhere to date. Attendance was way above organizers' expectations and I noted for one of the first times almost all of the industry individuals participated together to work as a team to move the industry forward.

This may sound like a subtle statement however it has been a long time coming to have science, growers, government and suppliers all on the same side and not battling each other over small issues instead of focusing on the vision of the big picture.

During my many site visits we had a chance to spend quite a bit of time with Terry Mills of Thimble Bay Farms.

 I have known Terry for a number of years and first heard of his skills as a pioneer and a crusader for industry growth from a few government officials. They knew that if Terry addressed them with an issue that they were probably in for a fight and with his reputation they would probably lose.

Terry has to be commended for his contribution to the industry however in his own words he has gotten tired of the battling and has decided to now really focus on his business of growing shellfish for profit.

Thimble Bay Farms are located in a fjord like setting on the North Coast of Newfoundland about twenty-five kilometers North of Botwood. Looking out from his farm northward if you could see that far, the next landmass is Greenland.

At the end of May when I was there it was a chilly +60C and raining. To give you a reference on climate and location, two days later while at the Ocean Science Center in Logy Bay observing Halibut Culture with Dr. Joe Brown I snapped a grounded Ice Burg on June 2 !!

Terry's farm is quite apiece off the highway on the other side of a peninsula down a road that is best designed for bigger trucks or 4x4’s only.

The day we were there, there was a lot of activity with the preparation of a new area for a primary processing plant.

Now anywhere else this might seem like a simple thing however Newfoundland is nicknamed the rock for a reason.

The place where Terry's plant was to be located necessitated the breaking down of a shear cliff to provide fill and to level off an area large enough to facilitate a plant.

The method of breading the rock was by using a rock hammer attached to a rather large hy-hoe. It would however have been much cheaper and quicker to blast the rock but here is where Terry's understanding of shellfish kicks in. The concern of shock wave on the animals in the farms and the potential risk of damage to the millions of scallops made the blasting idea inappropriate to say the least.

Like a good investor of mutual funds who spreads the investment in a number of portfolios Terry has a diversification of species that includes blue mussels (mytilus edulis), giant Atlantic scallop (placopecten magellanicus) Icelandic Scallop (chlamys islandicas) and is doing some experimentation with oysters (crassostrea virginica).

The methods of grow-out are diverse as well, with long lines as well as bottom racks and trays.

Water depth on his farm site averages 38 feet and is a long fjord like bay 50 feet to 1000 feet wide by 2 miles long. For a total of 69 hectares.

His new site, which took him two years to permit and obtain a lease, is less protected and is close to 100 hectares.

In an industry that is moving from its incubation to growth stage Terry has had to develop a lot of the techniques and handling equipment himself.

He has a workboat as well as a home built work barge that has an engine in a central location that also supplies hydraulic pressure for star wheel haulers and an overhead crane.

There are 6 full time and 4 seasonal employees.

In the early days of aquaculture in Newfoundland the method of anchoring back lines was to attach them from shore to shore. The remoteness allowed this however navigating through the lines was not easy.

To improve farm efficiency and to avoid future conflicts, Terry has rearranged almost the entire farm to the traditional bottom anchored long lines and has marked navigation channels through the site with green and red marked buoys. The result of this allows bottom better farm management and the well-organized look of the surface buoys indicates a true professional aquaculture farm.

Of special note is that Terry’s site was used as a benchmark by coastguard who worked with him to set up best management practices to avoid future conflict with other waterway user groups.

The Thimble Bay site was the first in Atlantic Canada to use the special yellow corner marker buoys and solar powered channel navigation lights.

In the winter the farm completely ices over however on his new site he will get park ice moving downward from the North.

This can be quite a problem however they have installed a buffer rope line that is very strong and well anchored that actually directs the ice away from the farm and seems to work quite well. There have been times however that they have actually had to go out peg the ice pans and tow them away from the sites.

As you can tell, operating a shellfish farm in Northern Newfoundland can have its moments however the clear well-protected cool waters allow for the growth of quality products.

All be it may take a little longer to achieve final grow-out, once the grow-out cycles are in place and yearly crops start to ready for harvest the Newfoundland Shellfish growers will be a very highly productive group.

When I questioned Terry on the reason why the Newfoundland growers were finally starting to move forward, his response was quick and to the point.

Provincial Fisheries Minister John Efford and assistant deputy minister Gerry Ward have been open to and have stood behind the growers suggestions and have cleaned the decks of red tape and bureaucratic make work projects. They recognized the potential of the province and the hard work the Newfoundland Aquaculture Association and the growers have put in over the years.

As Terry states "God help us if we lose them because we will go back to where we came." This, a statement from a fighter that loved to target bureaucrats and politicians!

It is a good lesson for other governments to start to take a lead from this co-operation to create a successful aquaculture industry, their work is to be commended.

On the way out to the new site fully dressed in rain gear fighting heavy rain in now +40C temperature Terry informed me the rain had stopped which to me was obviously un-true based on the fact I was still getting soaked. When I questioned his comment the reply with a grin was that in fact it had stopped raining and had turned to freezing rain!! Such is life for shellfish growers on the north coast of Newfoundland.

Contact Don Bishop at:
Fukui North America
PO Box 669
110-B Bonnechere St.W.
Eganville, Ontario K0J 1T0
**NEW**Tel: 613-559-0075 or 613-628-5266
**NEW**Fax: 613-432-9494
Email: kate@fukuina.com or don@bishopaquatic.com

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