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 ....
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
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
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 www.brianarisonline.com