Photo © Shay Fennelly 2016
Oyster fishing has resumed for three weeks in Clew Bay, County Mayo. In the 1800’s six million oysters were dredged from Clew Bay for export to the UK. Today the oyster stocks are very much reduced and in need of a restoration plan to re-build the oyster stocks. An oyster bed restoration program would allow the establishment of a profitable oyster fishery and provide a source of quality native oyster seed for culture.
The natural native flat oyster beds in Clew Bay are of both national and international importance. They are self-seeding and are one of only nine such natural oyster beds in the country. With the exception of a privately owned bed at Cullenmore Island, the Clew Bay Oyster Co-operative Society Ltd. has managed the native oyster beds in Clew Bay for the past 24 years. The Co-op. was granted an Oyster Fishery Order in 1979 and since then has managed the fishing season and ensured the continuity of stocks by instigating fishing rotation, fallowing of beds, stock enhancement & disease control programmes.
The Co-operative has also collectively managed the local approval of aquaculture licence applications, where all applicants within the Oyster Fishery Order area consult with the Co-op. in the process of applying to the Department of Communications, Marine & Natural Resources.
The average production and value per annum from 1999 to 2001 was: native oysters, 12 tonnes valued at €44,567, Pacific oysters, 716 tonnes valued at €958,142 and rope mussels, 385 tonnes valued at €218,019.