Oyster Beds of the Wang Chau area, Yuen Long

IDJ: The Wang Chau oyster beds spread along the Yuen Long Creek and also along its mouth in the shallow Deep Bay. They are owned by Lam Uk Tsuen, one of the six villages in the Wang Chau area. The oysters are reared at all times of the year. From November to April the oysters of Lam Uk Tsuen are taken from the Deep Bay beds to be fattened along the Yuen Long Creek, as during that time the salinity of Deep Bay is too high and the salinity of Yuen Long Creek is modified by fresh water.

Oysters IDJ 1 Hong Kong-New Territories-Oyster Bed sites

There are three methods involved in stocking the oyster beds:

(1)      Rock pieces, old oyster shells and brick fragments are spread over the beds for the spats to settle on. This method is simple and involves low capital outlay, but does not lend itself to high productivity. This is the generally used method throughout Wang Chau.

(2)     Bamboo sticks are set upright in the mud and the spats settle and grow on them. This technique has proved to be very unsuitable because of the poor attractive properties of the bamboos and of their inaccessibility except at low tide. This method is, therefore, very seldom used in the area concerned.

(3)      The “hanging drop” technique, which involves the collection of spats on cultch consisting of the separated valves of large oysters of the same species threaded on galvanized iron wires suspended vertically from horizontal bamboo poles supported by stakes of hardwood. Sometimes palm-fibre rope is used instead of iron wire, but other fibres such as single nylon thread, nylon twine, jute ropes and ramie ropes were found to break in rough weather. This method has proved to be extremely si~ccessfu1, as the Oysters, if cultured by this method, can reach marketable size in two and a half instead of four years. But the capital required is great and management is strenuous, so it has not been adopted by the Lam Uk Tsuen villagers.

New Territories Oyster Catchers at work 1958

The harvesting of oysters is done at all times of the year, but the amount varies according to market requirements. It increases in the cool seasons of autumn and winter but decreases in the hot summer. During harvest, in the summer, divers may collect the oysters from the rocks; in the winter tongs are used for collecting. The oysters are taken by boats to be shucked in front of Lam Uk Tsuen on the stream banks and most are then sent to the market in Yuen Long in a fresh state. Some of them are dried on the drying floors under the sun for one or two days to be sold as dry oysters; others are boiled for oyster sauce and the remnants are still sold as “secondary oysters.” The oyster shells accumulated along the stream banks are taken by sampans to the Lau Fau Shan area on the shores of Deep Bay to be used in the lime kiln’s there.

Oysters IDJ 3 Hong Kong-New Territories-Oyster shells dump

Source: Extracted from the Journal of the Geographical, Geological & Archaeological Society-Hong Kong University- March 1961

This article was first posted on 8th June 2014.

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