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Company History

Native oysters have been fished commercially off Whitstable, Kent in SE England since Roman times. Whitstable Bay is part of the Swale estuary, a shallow area with good tidal interaction between land and sea giving ideal conditions for good algal production and shellfish growth.

Seasalter Shellfish (Whitstable) Ltd owns two square miles of seabed off Whitstable known as the Pollard Ground. We also have a Crown fishery of similar size off the Isle of Sheppy called the Ham Ground. The grounds have been managed by "Seasalter" and it's predecessors since 1853 when it was purchased from the Dean and Chapter of Canterbury Cathedral.

Traditionally the ground had provided fish for the Monastery larder since before Magna Carta in 1066. At the turn of the last century more than 100 boats and over 500 people were employed in harvesting and selling Whitstable Oysters.
In later years, however, oysters stocks and markets declined throughout the UK due to disease, bad winters, pollution from a nearby paper mill and over fishing. After World War Two, the industry as a whole became practically non existent.

During the early sixties the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries began research on artificial breeding techniques for oysters using the Pacific oyster. A team of biologists led by a young John Bayes were employed by Associated Fisheries, (which took over the old Seasalter & Ham Oyster Fishery Company in 1965) to set up a hatchery at Whitstable and begin a re-stocking programme for both species. These were difficult times for oyster growers and many oyster fisheries ceased production. The specialist nature of artificial oyster rearing required high investment and extensive research. The operation was under threat of closure until it was rescued in1986 by John Bayes and renamed Seasalter Shellfish (Whitstable) Limited.

Present and Future ....

Today, the company operates from Reculver, eight miles East of Whitstable where the hatchery and several nursery systems are situated. An extensive pond system covering 8 hectares allows the luxury of good water quality management resulting in year round mollusc seed production . Species produced of oyster and clam seed are (Crassostrea gigas, Ostrea edulis, Mercenaria mercenaria, Tapes decussata, Tapes semidecussata). and other species of bivalve mollusc to order.
Our beach operation is based at Seasalter where over recent times production has shifted towards the half grown seed market within the Oyster farming industry. The Pollard Ground production site area is vast (some 12 km2) and there is a huge tidal flow through the Thames estuary passing constantly over the flats.

A completely different aspect of the business is concerned with the sale of technological advances developed by John Bayes and his team over the past three decades.

Our "SeaCAP Systems" (Continuous harvest microalgal systems) and customised hatchery designs have been installed at both fish and shellfish farms in 16 countries.

Our training programmes, consultancy and after-sales back up service is most unique because it is supported by an exclusive hands-on operation.

The Company sees a good future in assisting others in the industry to achieve full and economic production potential by drawing upon the wealth of experience we have to offer.

John Bayes copyright