Robinson Cove is a small, shallow inlet on the south shore of Big Island, Nova Scotia, which lies just across the Northumberland Strait from Prince Edward Island. The Robinson Cove oyster is medium in size with a shallow lower shell, making for easy opening. The shells are elongated and light brown. These oysters have an aroma of algae or a tidal pool and a persistent, pleasant aftertaste of iodine and algae that is not overpowering.
In Nova Scotia oysters are found in sheltered coastal and estuarine areas along the Northumberland Shore, in the Bra d’Or Lakes of Cape Breton, and in a few isolated areas on the eastern and southern coasts. The indigenous Mi’kmaq people exploited local oyster beds for thousands of years before the arrival of European settlers, and oyster farming in Canada began in the early 1800s.
In the late 1950s and early 60s, Malpeque oyster disease began wiping out the oyster populations around Big Island and Merigomish harbor. From the late 1960s and early 70s, oyster beds in the southern areas of Big Island were reseeded with oysters resistant to the disease, and the oysters harvested from Robinson Cove today are their descendants. About 4,000 oysters are harvested from this area per week .
Given the isolated nature of favorable oyster growing regions in Nova Scotia, each area possesses a unique marine environment– salinity, temperature, tides, mineral and chemical composition, and communities of water-born flora and fauna all vary from place to place. As a result, the oysters of each area express their own “merroir” (the marine equivalent of terroir), through both physical characteristics and flavor. Competition from mussels, sea squirts (tunicates), and the European green crab (an invasive species), as well as pollution from industry and municipal waste, pose threats not only to the distinctiveness of Big Island oysters, but to their very survival.