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Business events delegates benefit from Island expertise

Prince Edward Island’s innovative aquaculture practices cement its reputation as a world-renowned seafood destination. 

Pint-sized Prince Edward Island packs some culinary punch. Surrounded by Atlantic waters teeming with fish, lobster, oysters and all varieties of shellfish, this tiny island provides the optimal conditions for estuaries and hatcheries, attracting international markets and driving the local economy forward.

In 2019, the Island boasted more than 4000 commercial fishermen, with the entire aquaculture industry employing around 8,000, boosting the economy by $52 million in gross value each year.

Just 140 miles from end-to-end, the compact size of Prince Edward Island fosters close collaborations between players of all sizes within the aquaculture ecosystem, from the growers and distributors to governments and academia.

“Being small geographically makes us perfect for business meetings and conventions, allowing for convenient field trips and easy access to a diverse array of academic and hands-on experts in fisheries and aquaculture,” says Susan Freeman, Executive Director of Meetings & Conventions PEI.

World-renowned epicenter for shellfish and aquaculture

Picture an island where quaint rolling hills give way to friendly villages and coastlines resplendent with red sands and craggy cliffs. Picturesque Prince Edward Island is a remarkable combination of relaxed rural living and world-class aquaculture.

Shellfish production is particularly significant, with the Island responsible for 80 percent of Canada’s mussel production, including the top selling mussel brand in North America.

“Shellfish is big business here on Prince Edward Island,” says Freeman. “In 2021, annual PEI mussel production reached a staggering 50 million pounds, worth more than $45 million and employing more than 1500 people.”

This expanding industry gives rise to cutting-edge academic programs designed to inspire innovative technologies to improve aquaculture efficiencies and mitigate environmental issues such as global warming. 

A new research program, The Mussel Genome Project, is underway to help identify the temperature-resistant traits most desirable for breeding, and then ascertain which parts of the genome cause that trait. 

“We’ve noticed an increase in temperature of the shallow waters and estuaries around PEI, and this is creating challenges for growers,” says Kristin Tweel, Director of Sector Innovation for Genome Atlantic.

“The genomics project will help growers selectively breed mussels to be more resistant to climate change, without making any artificial changes at a genetic level.”

Created by Genome Atlantic, and partly funded by the Atlantic Fisheries Fund, the innovative solutions derived from this $800,000 project may have global applications for aquaculture industries in other markets.

World’s tastiest oysters

Mussels aren’t the only local shellfish to receive global accolades. At a Paris exhibition in 1900, Malpeques were judged as the world's tastiest oyster, bringing the region into the limelight. Since then, Prince Edward Island has continued to make significant advances in cultivation techniques, now employing off-bottom and water-column production methods, allowing the oysters greater access to nourishment for increased growth rates. 

“Local businesses like Raspberry Point Oyster Co and Atlantic Aqua Farms are producing some of North America’s most sought-after oysters,” says Freeman.

“These long-established operations have stood the test of time and know exactly how to take advantage of these ideal northern conditions to produce impeccable oysters of unparalleled quality.”

Many people are unaware that oyster farming is green and sustainable. In addition to being important modulators of nutrient cycles in ecological systems, farmed oysters help reduce greenhouse gases by removing carbon dioxide from the ocean as they form their shells.

Hands-on adventures

Business events organizers can choose from an abundance of off-site immersive experiences, with delegates able to discover first-hand the excitement of handling a live and wiggling lobster, and feast on the best shellfish and seafood in the world.

Delegates attending business events during September can live like a local at the PEI International Shellfish Festival at the Charlottetown Event Grounds, complete with oyster-shucking competitions, live cooking demos, roof-raising kitchen parties and, of course, mouth-watering shellfish.

“Since its inception, the shellfish festival has helped PEI and its oyster and mussel growers gather worldwide attention to what we offer on PEI,” says Liam Dolan, Founder of the PEI International Shellfish Festival. “Imagine being able to experience the world’s biggest oyster bar under one roof, with all of the growers alongside you and talking to you about how the oysters are harvested and what makes them so special on PEI."

“The Island offers a range of experiential experiences where delegates can learn about fisheries, advancements in aquaculture and savour our world-class culinary scene.”

The first experience of its kind in the world, Tranquility Cove Adventures on Prince Edward Island treats delegates to a private wintertime outing along the Brudenell River, where chainsaws and oyster tongs are used to cut through the ice and capture the sweetest wild oysters in Canada. Stay warm with a bonfire on the ice and a pot of fresh Island mussels.

Back on land, Prince Edward Island boasts some of the most aesthetic golf courses in the world, along with an exciting gastronomy scene and artisan markets, abundant with local produce, baked treats, arts and crafts, and unique gifts to take home.

Meetings with purpose

Prince Edward Island’s talent pool of aquaculture experts makes it easy for business events organizers to source engaging speakers who are passionate about the industry. The Island is home to The Centre for Aquaculture Technologies, the largest aquaculture contract research organization in the world, as well as the Prince Edward Island Aquaculture Alliance (PEIAA), committed to cultivating safe products in a sustainable environment.

By augmenting speakers’ series with PEI aquaculture experts, or enriching programming with localized technical tours, and fishery visits, business event organizers can attract delegates, increase revenues, and inspire future generations.

“We call that 'meeting with purpose’,” says Freeman, pointing out that when the time is right for in-person events to resume, Prince Edward Island is poised to show off its thriving aquaculture ecosystems.

Easy access

Regular flights are available on Air Canada, Westjet, Flair and PAL Airlines, with Charlottetown just two hours from Toronto. Find out more HERE.

Visit Meetings & Conventions PEI’s website to find out more about your next Agribusiness or Food Science business meeting.

Discover more about Canada’s agribusiness events HERE.