Table 1

Historical timeline of oyster fishery in Wales from 7000 BC to 1950 s.

Year Location Anecdotal evidence Source
Historical remnants of oyster consumption
7,000 BC Caldey Island Oyster part of diet based on Mesolithic archaeological remains Schulting and Richards, 2002; Schulting et al., 2004
75–400 AD Caerleon, Caerwent, Y Gaer Brecon Large quantities of oyster shells excavated from Roman fortresses Wheeler and Pryce, 1926; Matheson, 1929
First record of commercial oyster trade in Wales dating back to Tudor period
1592 Milford Haven* Early record of oyster trade in Wales; 20,000 oysters Lewis, 1927
1603–1850 Milford Haven* and Tenby** Oysters described as ‘sweetest and fattest', 'most delicate of severall sortes' and were ‘highly esteemed’ ‘sold by hundreds and by thousands, not by the bushel as in London’. Jenkins, 1991; Owen, 1892
Early reports of depleting stocks but continued to overfish oyster beds
1800–1820 Milford Haven* and Tenby** Stocks were ‘nearly exhausted’ and condition ‘least estimable’ Fenton, 1810; Royal Commission, 1866; Wright, 1932; Lloyd, 1958; Davidson, 1976
  Beaumaris Native oyster fishery signs of exhaustion.  
1836 Milford Haven* and Swansea Bay Oyster beds grew and production was substantial Thorpe, 1896; Reid et al., 2000
1850 Caernarfon Bay Oysters fattened in Strait, sold in ‘great quantities' to Manchester and Liverpool Royal Commission, 1866
1854 Pwllheli Each boat landing 15-20,000 oysters daily White, 1894
Oyster movements to replenish depleted oyster fisheries
1854–1857 Welsh coast ‘Exhaustive dredging’, oysters sent to England and France to restock beds and sustain market demand. Fisheries closed as limited ‘cultch’ and breeding oysters Bashford, 1891; White, 1894; Jenkins, 1974; Reid et al., 2000
1858 Mumbles Fishery recovered, began using ‘smack’ vessel, could fish further offshore Wright, 1932; Lloyd, 1954
First regulations introduced in attempt to recover oyster populations
1864 Tenby Regulations introduced to control minimum landing size Royal Commission, 1866; Lloyd, 1958
1871 Mumbles Board of Trade Regulating Order; ground closed for 9 months. Maximum number of boats (>180), fishers (>540) reported landing over 9 million oysters Anson and Willett, 1884; Royal Commission, 1866; Lloyd, 1954
1874 Mumbles Landings ‘had greatly declined’ by 58% since peak in 1871. Holdsworth, 1874; Lloyd, 1954
First introduction of new oyster species in Wales
1876–1902 Conwy First cultivated American oysters on artificial beds; ‘fishers earned £5-7/8 per week’ Davidson, 1976; Llandudno, Colwyn Bay District Field Society, 1930
1894 Menai Strait American and foreign oysters introduced because of scarcity of natives White, 1894
1894–1896 Wales Collecting oysters banned in hope to restore spat White 1894
1919–1920 Milford Haven* and Mumbles Oyster disease causing ‘oyster mortality’, commercial fishing was no longer feasible Orton, 1923; Cole, 1953; Jenkins, 1991
Fisheries experimental station opened to conduct research to support fisheries
1919 Conwy MAFF fisheries station conducting experiments on oyster breeding showing ‘some promise of success' Laing et al., 2004; MMO, 2021
1933 Milford Haven* Portuguese oyster introduced but were unsuccessful Cole, 1953
1937 Mumbles Closure of last commercial oyster fishery in Wales. Laing et al., 2006; MMO, 2021
1950's Menai Strait MAFF native oyster spat settlement trials unsuccessful Davidson, 1976

*Milford Haven describes oyster beds in Llangwm (11), Lawrenny (12), Pennar (13), Castle Pill (14).

**Tenby describing oyster beds at Stackpole (17) and Caldey Island (18). MAFF denotes the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, now known as the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). Historical records use term ‘American oyster’ to describe Crassostrea virginica and ‘Portuguese oyster’ to describe Magallana angulata.

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