The eastern Menai Strait is the most important aquaculture site in all of Wales, and the single largest mussel farming area in the whole of the UK. The success of this area is due to the unique natural environment that is perfect for mussels; and also the legal protection (known as a “Fishery Order”) that allows local mussel farmers to cultivate mussels here secure in the knowledge that they can harvest the mussels that they cultivate.
In 2022 the “Fishery Order” that the Government made in 1962 is due to expire. If it is not replaced then Wales will lose its leading place in UK aquaculture, and the local businesses and jobs that depend on the mussel fishery will vanish. The renewal of this Fishery Order is important for Wales and for the local economy.
The mussel farmers that work in the Menai Strait started the process of renewing the “Fishery Order” in 2018 so that new legislation will be ready to take the place of the 1962 Order when it expires in 2022.
What is proposed?
We are proposing a like-for-like renewal of the existing “Fishery Order”. Experience and science tells us that areas that are suitable for mussel farming are few and far between. Over the past 55 years we have identified the best places to farm mussels in the Menai Strait. No changes to the extent of mussel farming are being proposed.
The location of the mussel farming areas in the eastern Menai Strait is shown in the map below.
What is the timetable?
We submitted our formal application to the Cabinet Secretary for the renewal of this Order in early 2018, after consulting with land owners and key organisations in the area to raise awareness of our plans.
The consultation period on the new Fishery Order is due to take place in the spring of 2021 and will last for a month. After the Minister has had a chance to review the consultation responses a decision will be made later in 2021 about whether to proceed with making the new Fishery Order. To ensure a seamless transition we are hoping that the new Fishery Order will be confirmed and in place by the 1st April 2022.
What will happen in this area?
Mussels have been cultivated in the Menai Strait since 1962. Mussels are farmed in areas that are leased to each mussel farmer. Each farmer harvests small “seed” mussels and puts them on the shore in the sheltered waters of the Menai Strait. The mussels grow fast here, and within a couple of years they are big enough to harvest and eat. Mussel farming is done directly on the seabed – no nets or equipment are placed on the shore.
Do mussel farmers use chemicals?
No. There is no need to treat farmed mussels with chemicals to control pests. They don’t need to be fed either – they filter their food from the seawater, cleaning the water in the process. In Sweden and Denmark, mussel farming is being used to clean up polluted waters. Mussels are good for water quality.
Would there be lots of boat traffic?
No. Mussel farmers use boats, but are only on site when re-laying and harvesting mussels. Vessel operations are limited to high water periods, mainly in the autumn-spring period, and generally between Monday and Friday.
Is mussel farming sustainable?
Yes. Don’t just take our word for it – in 2010 the Menai Strait mussel fishery was successfully certified against the Marine Stewardship Council’s global standard for sustainable fisheries by a team of independent experts. It was the first mussel farming area in the whole world to attain this coveted award. The fishery is inspected annually by independent experts to make sure that we maintain this high standard of operation. You can find out more about this on the MSC website here.
To make sure that Wales continues to lead the world in sustainable mussel farming, we work in partnership with scientists from the Centre for Applied Marine Sciences at Bangor University. Since the early 1990s we have sponsored 15 PhD and MSc studentships and provided funding for research that has been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.
Our scientific work has examined the interaction between mussel farming and the marine environment and has enabled us to ensure that our operations are sustainable and compatible with the unique wildlife of the area. Right now we are working to better understand the relationship between shorebirds and mussels, and also to examine how mussel farming can help to improve water quality by mopping up excess nutrients from the land.
Why do mussel farmers have such big boats?
Mussel farmers need big boats for harvesting seed mussels from either Morecambe Bay or Caernarfon Bar. The mussel dredgers in Porth Penrhyn are designed to harvest 2-300t of seed mussels on each trip to the seed mussel beds before the small mussels are swept away by autumn storms. Often the tides, wind and weather allow only a few days each year to fish for seed mussels. Big boats allow this to be done safely, and allow the farmers to gather enough mussels to last for one or two years.
Would this stop me from…..
Sailing in the area?
No. There are no restrictions on sailing over the shellfish farming areas. There would be very few days per year when mussel boats are working, and work is planned to avoid key sailing events (such as races).
Walking on the beach or foreshore?
No. The Fishery Order does not restrict access to the beach or foreshore. You will still be able to walk on the shore.
Angling in the Menai Strait?
No. The Fishery Order does not restrict access to the shore or the use of boats. You be able to go angling in the area just as you always have done.
Beaching a boat on the shore?
No. The Fishery Order does not prevent or interfere with beaching of boats whether for picnics or for maintenance.
What is the Menai Strait Fishery Order Management Association?
The Menai Strait Fishery Order Management Association (MSFOMA) was set up in 2010 to oversee the management of the shellfish farming areas in the eastern Menai Strait. It is an independent not-for-profit organisation. Its membership comprises 2 representatives of the fishing industry, and 1 representative from each of Natural Resources Wales, Gwynedd County Council, Ynys Mon County Council, and the University of Bangor. It is chaired by Mr Alan Winstone, an independent fisheries expert from Anglesey.
What is a “Fishery Order”?
A “Fishery Order” is an Order made by the Government that assigns the fishing rights in the sea for certain species of shellfish to an individual or organisation. The first Fishery Orders were made in the late 19th century. There are presently 24 Fishery Orders in the UK, which form the backbone of our mussel and oyster exports.
Where can I find out more?
There are several ways you can find out more about the proposal. There is some information on the internet at www.msfoma.org; and you can contact us by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would prefer to talk to us in person, you can call Jim Andrews on 07908-225865.
A PDF of this update can be downloaded for printing here.