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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 February, 2005, 15:15 GMT
Bay plans oyster trade revival
Oysters from Mumbles were once exported across Europe
Efforts are to be made to reintroduce the oyster trade to Swansea Bay, after an absence of more than 80 years.

In the mid-19th Century, the shellfish industry employed 600 people in Mumbles and the oysters gathered there were prized across Europe for their quality.

But over-fishing, pollution and disease wiped out the beds and the industry died out.

Now business and marine organisations will conduct a study to see if oysters can be encouraged back.

We are looking at a range of options but we need to see if we can farm and provide sufficient oysters
Terry Scales

The project has been put together by the Mumbles Development Trust (MDT) with help from Swansea University based-Aquaculture Wales, the Welsh Development Agency, city council and sea fisheries bodies.

Representatives have travelled to Mumbles' twin town of Hennebont in southern Brittany to seek advice from fishermen there.

Terry Scales, development officer for MDT, said: "In 2003 we held an exhibition of the history of the oyster trade in Mumbles.

"In the 1860s it employed up to 600 people and oysters from Swansea Bay were internationally famous."

But he said over-fishing, industrial pollution and an outbreak of disease in 1920 all but wiped the trade out.

"We had our third annual beach clean last September during which we found a large number of mature oyster shells on the beach," added Mr Scales.

"The water in the bay now is much cleaner than it was. It seems obvious to bring these things together."

Marine biologists from Aquaculture Wales will held carry out a feasibility study and it is then hoped to set up a pilot project.

"We are looking at a range of options but we need to see if we can farm and provide sufficient oysters," said Mr Scales.

There are records that oysters were found off the Gower coast as long ago as Roman times, and there were oyster beds in Swansea Bay throughout the 17th and 18th centuries.

In the 1860s, about 170 oyster skiffs farmed the bay.

Mr Scales said discussions had been held with local cockle and mussel pickers and shellfish processors who had all expressed an interest.

He said it was hoped to provide oysters to the growing number of hotels and restaurants in Swansea and sell them at the trust's local produce markets.

Osyters are already fished in the Menai Straits, off Anglesey.

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