Born of the Water

Guest contribution by Philip Docker, owner and operator of ShanDaph Oysters.

The first oyster I had was at the age of seven or eight. I did not have another until I was in my late teens and I do not recall that I was hooked immediately.  I now have the great pleasure of growing oysters and even more enjoyably, often provide people with the occasion to experience their first oyster. The oysters that I now grow are genetically related to the first oyster I had and come from the same body of water that my first oyster came from.

My name is Philip Docker I am the owner and operator of ShanDaph Oysters, a small boutique shellfish operation on the North east shore of Nova Scotia. The boutique operation grows primarily oysters, as well as bay scallops and quahogs in the eastern end of Merigomish harbour.  At ShanDaph we are committed to introducing and providing all customers with the most significant connection possible between their table and the ShanDaph farm. Only the plumpest tastiest shellfish with consistent size and shape are harvested for an exciting gourmet experience.


ShanDaph promotes environmentally sound practices. Shellfish are grown from seed, harvested in a natural setting and packaged on site in Atlantic Canada’s only solar-powered, federally registered facility.

This is my twelfth year growing oysters and it seems like I learn and or observe something new about oyster growing and the environment around me every day. Today I saw that when given the proper conditions and care you can grow a truly stunning oyster as large as my hand in twelve years.  She weighs over a pound and will continue to live on the farm for the rest of her life.

When I first started out I had ambitions of growing and selling large numbers of oysters. Now after many lessons from Mother Nature and a better understanding of customer service and satisfaction my ambition has changed. I now look at providing one person with an oyster and an experience which allows them to have some sense of what it takes to produce that oyster and where it comes from.  I aim to recreate that experience for each person who tastes a ShanDaph and hope that they pass along the experience and knowledge they have to someone else looking for a new experience or more knowledge about the food we eat.

Shellfish farming has been around in Nova Scotia for a long time and has seen its share of ups and downs. What excites me now and looking into the future is the incredible opportunity we have as Nova Scotians to develop and grow a world-class environmentally, economically and socially sustainable shellfish industry.  An industry which is fostered by all Nova Scotians and of which we are proud. There has to be a greater effort by all involved – growers, government, and society at large – to create a world-class shellfish aquaculture industry in Nova Scotia.

Shellfish aquaculture can be environmentally, economically and socially sustainable, but all bodies involved have to see the possibility for positive change. Participants must demonstrate to the public their commitment to being stewards of the environment, economy and communities in which they operate and live. The growers have to realize that they are the ones responsible in the end for showing the public that we are the stewards looking after the environment.  We want to provide incredible product, we want to provide it for Nova Scotia; but we also have the incredible opportunity to offer it for the rest of the world, and we have the waters to do it.

I now have two young boys who I love to pass on the knowledge I have of the water, shellfish and the environment around us and the other creatures in that environment. I hope that when they reach my age they will be able to look at the shellfish industry in Nova Scotia and say, “Wow, we Nova Scotians have done an incredible job growing an environmentally, economically and socially sustainable industry. No wonder people come from around the world to see, learn about and taste what we have to offer.”


Low density farmed oysters are rated as a “Best Choice” by SeaChoice.


One thought on “Born of the Water

  1. Pingback: Reeling in Big Value from our Small-Scale Fisheries | Small Scales

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