Fishy Names, Lobsters, Marketing, and the Launch of a New Sea Zoo

Updated on December 9, 2019
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.
A live European lobster. | Source

1980s Catch of the Day

In the early 1980’s 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

Anglesey Sea Zoo:
Brynsiencyn, Llanfairpwll LL61 6TQ, UK

get directions

Liverpool, UK

get directions

A Novel Marketing Strategy

The mountain seemed almost too high to climb; a new tourism business with zero marketing budget, set in an isolated area a long way from the usual tourist routes. The sea zoo venture was also a totally new visitor concept. Not only should the marketing attract holidaymakers, but it must explain the concept of a marine aquarium. The owners may not have had much money, but they were passionate about conservation and the environment.

They decided to focus on a grand opening day for the new sea zoo; all invitees would be people who had fish-related surnames. The objectives of the marketing campaign for Anglesey Sea Zoo 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.

A Sea Zoo is a Large Saltwater Aquarium

A sea zoo provides a window into an otherwise hidden seascape.
A sea zoo provides a window into an otherwise hidden seascape. | Source

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.

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 the

— From The Daily Post newspaper

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 the Movie by Charlie Lyne

If you like David and Goliath stories, you’ll love this tale of a business facing ruin, but managing to turn its fortunes around by clever marketing. This true fishy tale comes from Wales in the UK. Fish Story is now immortalized as a short film by journalist Charlie Lyne.

Caspar Salmon Remembers Fishy Surnames

Present Day Anglesey Sea Zoo Champions 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 current owners have changed the focus of the center from being just a visitor attraction to become a major player in marine conservation. The marine aquarium is part of a crawfish research project as well as being actively engaged in lobster conservation, and a seahorse breeding program.

The Anglesey Sea Zoo contains only British (native) species. It’s 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.

Anglesey Sea Zoo North Wales

Famous People With Fishy Surnames

  • Lance Bass was a member of the American boy band 'N Sync.
  • Edwin Taylor Pollock (1870-1943) was Governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • Clifford Archibald Roach (1904-1988) was a cricketer from Trinidad who played for West Indies in their first Test Tour of England in 1928.
  • Theodore Sturgeon (1918-1985) was an American science-fiction author who also wrote scripts for Star Trek.
  • Steven Russell "Rainbow" Trout pitched for the Chicago Cubs in the 1980s.
  • James Whale (1889-1957) directed numerous Hollywood movies including Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, and The Invisible Man.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


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