Conwy Mussel Centre

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Conwy Mussel Centre, Conwy quay

Mussels have been fished from the Conwy estuary for thousands of years. The Romans noted them for the quality of the pearls found inside some of the shells. In the early 19th century, Conwy mussels were still producing significant quantities of pearls (the meat inside was mostly fed to livestock). Most of the pearls were dispatched to jewellers in London. Legend has it that one Conwy pearl was incorporated into the Crown Jewels.

Conwy mussels have been fished by members of the same few families for many generations. In 1853 one mussel gatherer, Richard Roberts, drowned while out working on the estuary. He lost his balance when stepping from one boat to another and was swept away by the strong current before anyone could help.

The mussel families respected bylaws which prohibited mussel fishing in summer, but in 1897 a local man was fined for having taken mussels from the estuary on 29 July. He told magistrates that he had only taken some for his own use.

In the early 20th century, food poisoning from shellfish became a significant public health issue, and at one time Conwy’s mussel beds were closed for safety. The government set up a research centre at Castle Bank, Conwy, where a method of purifying mussels was developed. It was adopted on a commercial scale, enabling consumers to eat mussels with confidence.

Although over-fishing and quotas put paid to Conwy’s established trawler fleet in the 1980s, the mussel fishery continues to thrive. Mussels are harvested for food rather than pearls but come out of the water with impurities. They’re left in tanks of clean water at the mussel centre for a couple of days for the impurities to disappear. The centre functions as a mussel information centre during the summer.

Postcode: LL32 8BB    View Location Map

Website of Conwy mussels fishery

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