Sedentary shellfish were the first focus of marine aquaculture. Oyster farming has been carried out since Ancient Roman times, and this sector still predominates, with 11 million tons of oysters produced worldwide in the year 2000.
In the last two decades, the development of shellfish culture has led to major growth of Chinese oyster production, increased interest in pearl oysters and an exponential increase in common and variegated scallop culture.
Oysters and mussels account for a major share of the shellfish produced in Europe.
France is the top European producer of cupped oysters—most of the production is consumed domestically, and a slightly higher volume is exported as compared to imports. France is the 4th ranking producer of mussels, but barely fulfils 60% of its consumption demand. Other species cultured include European flat oysters, clams, cockles and top shells.
Black pearl production has become the main economic activity in French Polynesia.
Finally, some common scallop beds depleted by fishing activities off the coast of Brittany are being repopulated via the release of hatchery-reared common scallops.
The shellfish sector—with slightly more than 200 000 tons of shellfish produced for consumption and more than 11 tons of cultured pearls produced in 2001 (OFIMER)—has a major socioeconomic impact in French coastal regions and should be supported and streamlined.
All these productions benefit from the existence of a sector allowing to supply quality products.