After years of working with fishermen and shellfish farmers around Wales and the UK, marine biologist Dr Andy Woolmer took the plunge and established an oyster farm in Angle Bay, Pembrokeshire.
Still only in their first commercial harvest, Atlantic Edge Oysters are being snapped up by local chefs keen to serve top-quality sustainable seafood to their customers.
Thanks to the power of social media, Atlantic Edge Oysters are appearing on restaurant menus across the county and beyond. They are also available from smaller local fish suppliers.
Andy said: “Provenance is everything with the quality and flavour of an oyster. Known as their ‘merroir’, oysters take on the essence of the marine environment in which they grow. This merroir reflecting the pristine marine environment around Pembrokeshire chimes with a lot of the chefs I’m working with, as they value quality, provenance and local produce above all else.
“You could eat our oysters straight from the beach, so pure are the Atlantic waters around here. The water is gin-clear and has an A-grade shellfish classification from the Food Standards Agency. Still, we have built a new purification unit, which adds another level of quality to our oysters and helps us maintain consistency of supply.”
Andy is also helping to maintain the sensitive ecology of the Milford Haven Waterway. Atlantic Edge’s oysters are grown among seagrass beds in an MPA, so he has developed ways of growing them that leave the smallest of footprints.
“My objective is finding the balance between fishing, aquaculture and conservation. We have to develop sustainable approaches to fisheries and shellfish farming in Wales because the sea is not a museum or aquarium – it has to be a working sea.”
A crucial part of the business is supporting native oyster (Ostrea edulis) restoration. Andy said: “Restorative aquaculture is at the heart of what we do. We grow native oysters for restoration projects, and have recently put 40,000 oysters into Milford Haven.
“Rather than take from the sea, oyster farming can have a restorative effect on the surrounding waters. It helps remove excess nutrients, and provides habitat to create a healthier ecosystem for other marine life.”
Andy is an expert in oyster farming and marine life, but when it came to the myriad skills required to run a small business, he turned to Cywain, though which he has been able to access support ranging from branding and social media marketing to finance and design.
Andy said: “As a small producer, especially in the seafood sector, you’re either a one-man band or a family business, and you have to try and master everything.
“Also, just as we were starting up, Brexit and Covid happened, which meant our original plan for the route to market had to change. Now we’re growing, purifying, marketing, selling and delivering. So I would not have got to this point without Cywain’s help.”
Find out more at: atlanticedgeoysters.co.uk
This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here. Above image credit: Dai Williams Photography.