Seafood fishing off PEI in 1949. The narrator of those old Pathé films was Cyril Frederick (Bob) Danvers-Walker from 1940-1970. Prince Edward Island’s Malpeque Bay is one of the last remaining areas in the world where oysters continue to be harvested from wild beds by oyster gatherers, who are still called fishermen instead of farmers. Utilizing a long-standing technique that developed over a hundred years ago involving a small boat called a dory and giant wooden pincers called tongs, these oysters and the industry around them have survived great adversity to become some of the most popular in the world.
The oysters that live in Malpeque Bay have been important to the people of Prince Edward Island for thousands of years. From Mi’kmaq tribes and British settlers in need of food to the expansion of transportation that eventually transformed oyster fishing throughout the world into a multi-million dollar industry, the oysters of Malpeque have always been vital to the many different kinds of people who have made their homes there.
Professional fisherman on Malpeque Bay harvest oysters from 15-foot dories. The water is so clear, that through ten fee of water you can look straight down into nothing but piles of oysters. Fourteen-foot wooden tongs are used to fish a handful of oysters up out of the water at a time. No dredges are ever used, and no hand-collecting is done, either. Malpeque oysters are taken out of wild beds with giant wooden tongs. It’s been that way for over a hundred years, and it’s illegal to harvest them in any other way.
This post is brought to you by the famous PEI History guy, Isaac Stewart.
Well, it’s been another busy week here in Broadford – so much so, in fact, that Friday has come out of nowhere and I’m coming to you entirely lacking in written material for this week’s offering. But it dawned on me this morning that if a picture is worth about a thousand words, what about a video? Does that equate to a hundred thousand? I think so, which is why this week I’m putting out a “sequel” to a post I made back in January (Lights, Camera, Action: The Cradle of Confederation (1925)).
Because really, who doesn’t like sequels?
So let’s all just sit back and put our feet up, pour some whiskey (if you have it), and enjoy this little 1949 gem from British Pathe which depicts the Island’s time-honoured tradition of oyster fishing.
See you next week!
PEI History Guy