There are two ways to harvest Irish Moss. The first, and most common, requires a license and is done from a fishing boat in the shallow water just off the shore. This fishery utilizes the same type of boat that is used in countless other Island fisheries including lobster, tuna and groundfish. The moss fishing season runs from early summer to late autumn. The method of harvesting from a boat is really a simple procedure. A small fishing vessel hauling upwards of six drags of varying sizes moves slowly and continually around the shallow water where the moss grows. Any moss that may be loose or disengaged from the rocks is picked up by rakes. When the rakes are full, they are raised to the boat using a hauler and a series of pulleys and booms where it is emptied onto the floor of the boat.

When the boat is full, it returns to the harbour where a buyer (often a moss plant owner) waits with a half-ton truck with high sideboards. A special hoist on the wharf is used to empty the boat. The fishermen shovel the moss into a container that is raised using the hoist and dumped into the truck. This is repeated until the boat is unloaded the moss is then spread on the ground and sun dried. Fishermen get a much better price for dry moss than they would for wet. In 2004, the rate was 17 cents per pound for wet moss and 42 cents per pound for dry plants.

The other method of taking the moss from the water is as unique as the people who do it. After a storm with high winds washing moss into the more shallow areas, the gathering of moss begins. Moss that is washed up into the very shallow areas is gathered by hand using small hand held nets or long hand rakes. The slightly deeper areas of the shore require horses to collect the moss.

Community Museums Association of Prince Edward Island.

© Community Museum Association of Prince Edward Island, 2005. All rights reserved.

Teachers' Centre Home Page | Find Learning Resources & Lesson Plans