Did you know various type of shellfish are abundant around Wales?

Did you know various type of shellfish are abundant around Wales?

Although most of the shellfish caught in the waters around Wales is exported to the Continent, you can catch lobster, crab, crawfish, mussels, cockles, shrimps, oysters, scallops, limpets, and periwinkles or find them in local fishmongers and restaurants.

Shellfish

Lobster is Britain's largest crustacean and specimens as large as 14 ½ pounds have been caught off the south western coastline of Dyfed.  The average weights however are between 2 and 3 pounds and they normally measure 8-20 inches in length.  Lobsters live along the rocky coastline of Wales and are blue with brown markings.  Sizable quantities of lobsters are caught along the coasts of Dyfed, the Llŷn Peninsula and Anglesey.  Most of them are exported to the Continent, with France enjoying the majority of them.

Crab is found in many ports along Cardigan Bay, in particular, New Quay, Barmouth, Aberdaron, the north coast of Anglesey and St. David's Head in Dyfed.  They are generally caught in wickerwork, wire or plastic pots.  Some as heavy as 12 pounds have been caught but this is unusual, they are normally about 10 inches across the shell.

Crawfish, also known as langouste, spiny lobster or rock lobster.  These shellfish are slightly larger than a true lobster but they have smaller pinchers and are regarded as a delicacy in France.  Found along the rocky western coasts of Wales - Pembrokeshire, New Quay, Barmouth, they are exported primarily to France.

Mussels are found all round the Welsh coast wherever there are suitable rocks to which they can attach themselves.  Mussels prefer to be continuously covered by water where they can feed constantly on the organic material carried down from the rivers, so the best mussel beds occur below the low water mark. The commercial exploitation of the mussel is concentrated in river estuaries.  The Conwy estuary was amongst the most important fishery for mussels until the late 1970's and mussels were gathered from the shore or from the deep water during the winter months.  However, in the Menai Straits mussels farming is becoming increasingly important.

Cockles live close to the surface of the sand on sheltered tidal shores, the most extensive beds are in Carmarthen Bay, especially the Burry Inlet.  Most of the cockle gathering is done from three north Gower villages.

Shrimps occur widely along the Welsh coast.  Some are caught in trawl nets and traps in the Severn, Wye and Dee estuaries.  They are abundant all around Wales, particularly in the autumn.

Oysters are found off-shore in shallow water and were, until the beginning of the 20 century, of considerable economic importance in Swansea Bay and to a lesser degree off the south coast of Pembrokeshire.  Oyster beds have been artificially planted in parts of Wales but sadly oyster dredging has virtually disappeared. 
Scallops live in deep water off-shore or on gravelly sea beds.  They are commercially dredged in Cardigan Bay and until 1985, considerable quantities were treated in a processing plant in the Ceredigion village of New Quay.

Limpets are rock clinging snails and occur widely on the sea shore.  They were never gathered commercially but were used as food in the coastal communities of Ceredigion and the Llŷn Peninsula.

Species such as hake, cod, plaice and haddock are caught by trawlers from ports such as Milford Haven, Swansea and Cardiff, although their fishing fleets have declined significantly.  Other fish such as turbot, flounder, sole, dab, brill, whiting, mackerel, herring and mullet occur profusely along the northern coastal waters of Wales.  The sea bass has become more important in recent years as it commands a high price in the market.

Although the seas around Wales still have plentiful species of fish, sadly the commercial fishing industry is not what it was 50 years ago. 

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