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Bay Enterprises Ltd.

Bay Enterprises Ltd. is a family-run shellfish farm in Malagash, NS operating oyster leases dating back to 1899

Introduction to a Legacy

Founded in 1974, Bay Enterprises Ltd. emerged as a cooperative alongside other oyster leases facing challenges in the Malagash Basin, Nova Scotia. The Purdy family, at the helm of this venture, boasts a legacy dating back to 1899, with their oyster farming leases enduring through the hardships brought by the Malpeque disease that once devastated the industry. Malpeque disease, a significant affliction in Atlantic Canada’s oyster industry, has historically led to up to 99% mortality in unexposed Eastern Oyster populations, with survivors showing resistance. Its impact was severe in the early and mid-20th century, particularly during outbreaks in 1915 and the 1950s and 60s, causing substantial losses. The last notable outbreaks were recorded in the Bras D’Or Lakes and St Ann’s Harbour, Cape Breton, in 2007, with no significant outbreaks since the 1950s, highlighting the industry’s recovery and resilience.

Charles Purdy leads the current Bay Enterprises operations with his wife Nancy and daughter Rachel.

On the harvester, Charles steers the boat and lowers the end of a conveyor belt into the water. At the head of the conveyor belt, there is a series of pipes which shoot water under the oysters. This process lifts bundles of oysters from the ocean floor onto the conveyor belt by a blast of water. Charles picks the oysters off the belt once they’re above water and separates them into bins.

The best part of Charles’ day is when he finishes harvesting at sunset. “I’m coming in from fishing. I’ve got the boat loaded down, and the sun is just setting. It’s my favorite part.”

Once the oysters are brought to land, Nancy and Rachel Purdy clean them and break the bundles apart. “They’re growing naturally on the bottom, so they’re not perfectly perfect,” says Nancy. They sort the oysters by size and quality, and inspect each oyster, tapping them with a knife to ensure they are full, and looking for cracks or breaks on the shells. “Everything we do here is done by hand,” says Charles. “We go the extra distance. It costs us money to do it, but it certainly makes a difference in the quality.”

The Purdys also take extra care when they’re packaging their oysters, making sure every oyster goes into the box the proper way: cup down. “There are a lot of little things we try to do to make sure the quality is the very, very best that we can make it. The bay does its part, and we try to do ours.” says Charles.

Nancy’s favourite part of being an oyster farmer is being her own boss. “Being self-employed, you get to do what you want,” says Nancy. “You have the freedom to take off if you want to.” But, being self-employed comes with its own set of challenges.



A Philosophy Rooted in Nature

Charles Purdy holds a philosophy that the title of “Best Oysters in the World” can fluctuate daily, with the bay’s natural bounty playing a pivotal role. Despite experimenting with new technologies, Charles emphasizes a commitment to traditional, natural methods to maintain harmony with nature’s rhythm.

Overcoming Nature’s Challenges

Facing hurricanes like the formidable storm Juan and invasive species poses significant challenges, disrupting oyster beds and affecting clams. Green

crabs and invasive species can cause problems for the clams in particular. New species of algae like “dead man’s fingers” have shown up recently. Adaptations to storms are difficult, so the Purdys try to weather them as best as they can.

With their harvester, they can raise the oysters a off the seabed to prevent the debris build up on bottom culture oysters. Adapting to such adversities, Bay Enterprises relies on the resilience of their natural systems.

Flavour Profile & Pairings

Charles notes that everyone has different tastes and he encourages experiemtation, but he also left us with a couple suggestions to try with his oysters:
Jost Tidal Bay Wine
– Tatamagouche Brewery – they occasionally produce an oyster stout using Malagash Oysters. Until they have that available again, check out their other offerings here





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