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A Fishy Tale from Anglesey, Wales

Updated on October 22, 2017
Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

I love to travel and explore new places. I hope my articles encourage you to visit them too.

A Live European Lobster

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Catch of the Day

Imagine you are opening a new tourism business but have no budget for marketing. You are in an isolated area, far from the usual tourist routes. Your venture is a new visitor concept. Not only do you need to attract holidaymakers, but you must explain what your business is about. Welcome to the Anglesey Sea Zoo, a marine aquarium.

It was the early 1980’s and an oyster and lobster business in the tiny village of Brynsiencyn on the island of Anglesey was struggling to survive. Fresh lobster was, and still is, expensive in the UK and the recession had dented demand for this luxury. The desperate business owners needed to find some way to boost their income, and quickly, without too much additional investment.

They noticed their live lobsters (which were kept in holding tanks for sale) were becoming an attraction in their own right. Tourists and locals were fascinated by them. The visitors came to watch the lobsters with their strange dancing gait. But they did not want to buy any of them to create Lobster Thermador. So, the idea of creating a sea zoo was born; visitors would pay to watch. There would be no need to kill or cook these interesting creatures in this new business.

Anglesey Sea Zoo is on the Menai Straits in north Wales, UK

A markerAnglesey Sea Zoo -
Brynsiencyn, Llanfairpwll LL61 6TQ, UK
get directions

Steady as She Goes

A successful marketing campaign should have clear objectives. For Anglesey Sea Zoo these were to:

1. Achieve name recognition for the new tourist attraction.

2. Interest day-trippers and visitors from further afield.

3. Create a realistic (and rising) income stream.

4. Work within an almost zero-finance marketing budget.

The owners may not have had much money, but they were passionate about their venture. They also had strong financial reasons for wanting this new project to succeed. They decided to focus on a grand opening day to which they would invite people who had a fish-related surname.

A Sea Zoo is a Large Aquarium

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Reel Them In

Surprisingly there is no record of the final guest list, but invitations were sent out to people in the local area who had appropriate surnames. TV personality, Michael Fish, was invited to perform the opening ceremony. This was at a time when there was no internet or social media platforms, but the story achieved international press coverage. The owners sent out a simple press release.

Calling Mr. Piranha

Weatherman Michael Fish plus assorted Mr. and Mrs. Salmons, Breams and Whitings have been asked to the opening of a £250,000 sea zoo at Brynsiencyn, Anglesey. Officials doubt they will find a Mr. Piranha to invite, but managing director, David Lea-Wilson said “There are plenty of other fishy names in the phone book.”

National and international media picked up on the story. One of the few newspaper articles to survive is quoted below. Sadly, there is no date attached to the cutting, so the exact date of the event (other than it being in the mid 1980's) is unknown.

From "The Daily Post"

BBC TV Weatherman Michael Fish … was the “star fish” on a guest list sharing surnames of 24 varieties of aquatic life.

… included Captain Salmon, master of Holyhead’s Sealink ferry, a Sharkey, Herring, Carp, Spratling, Pike, Haddock and Cockle. The Jelly family from Mold … and a Mr. Winkle were also (there).

In keeping with the occasion, Mr. Fish cut a strand of seaweed instead of the usual white ceremonial ribbon. All the guests will receive presents of fish matching their names.

Hook, Line and Sinker

Recently, the grandson of one of the original 1980’s guests was talking to a journalist friend about surnames. Caspar Salmon was teased about his name as a child, but he remembers his grandmother telling him there are positive aspects to having a fishy name. She said she had been invited to a special sea-themed happening on Anglesey where she was presented with a whole salmon to take home.

Caspar had few details about when, where and what the event was, or even if it was really a true story. However, the journalist, Charlie Lyne, was intrigued and determined to find out more. A search on the internet drew a blank, so he started trawling through the local phone book for fish-related surnames.

After hours of research, he eventually spoke to a Mr. and Mrs. Herring who remembered the event. From what they told him, he managed to locate the original owners of the sea zoo. They showed him scrapbooks of the opening event which included old photos and contemporary news cuttings. The video below shows the evidence he gathered. It includes endearing cameos at the end from Sir Michael Fish recalling some infamous moments in his career.

Fish Story with Charlie Lyne and Caspar Salmon

Present Day Anglesey Sea Zoo at Forefront of Marine Conservation

The original owners’ marketing strategy was a success. The fish-themed opening event attracted positive publicity and helped generate a steady flow of visitors. The Anglesey Sea Zoo is now well established and currently employs more than 30 people. It changed ownership in 2013. The new owners, Frankie Hobro and Dylan Evans have increasingly changed the focus of the center from being just a visitor attraction to become a major player in marine conservation. The Anglesey Sea Zoo are part of a crawfish research project run by Seiont Research Ltd. They are also actively engaged in a lobster conservation project and a seahorse breeding program.

The video below shows some highlights of the center. Its USP (unique selling point) is that the sea zoo contains only British (native) species. The enterprise is run in an environmentally sustainable manner and uses salt-water from the nearby Menai Straits to fill its aquarium. The water is not heated; its temperature is kept at the same level as the natural marine environment outside.

Guide to Anglesey Sea Zoo

In conjunction with other aquaria in the UK and Europe, Anglesey Sea Zoo is committed to advancing the conservation of seahorses through education and research. … Our aims are to improve our husbandry techniques and share knowledge gained with others, and to increase awareness of seahorses through our education program and graphics panels. We also aim to successfully breed native seahorses, learn more about their biology, and produce husbandry manuals for other organizations.

— Seahorse Breeding Program at Anglesey Sea Zoo

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