• A survey by hydraulic dredge of interstitial bivalves with commercial potential in Cill Chiaráin and Beirtreach buí Bays and along their connecting shoreline, Co Galway

      Fahy, E.; Carroll, J.; Browne, R.; Ní Rathaille, A.; Casburn, P.; Breathnach, S.; Norman, M.; Stokes, D. (Marine Institute, 2002)
      The shellfish co-operative, Comharchuman Sliogéisc Chonamara Teó (CSC) manages oyster and scallop in Beirtreach buí and Cill Chiaráin Bays, both of which are designated aquaculture areas. Cill Chiaráin is also a candidate Special Area of Conservation (cSAC). Various traditional fishing activities are carried on in the bays and CSC has rights to exploit clam species there. The work described here is a survey of interstitial clam species by hydraulic dredge between November 2001 and January 2002. Investigations were restricted from some of the upper bay areas where surface bivalve management was in progress. Much of the remaining areas within the Bays proved unsuitable for hydraulic dredging by virtue of the nature of the substratum. The exposed parts of the lower bays and the intervening coastline where the substratum was coarse sand (maërl or shell sand) were suitable for hydraulic dredging but bedrock and loose boulders often proved obstacles to towing. There was evidence of two assemblages of bivalves in the bays: one typified by Venus verrucosa, Venerupis senegalensis and Tapes rhomboides, all large and potentially valuable, occurred within maërl mixed with fine mud, the other whose most valuable components included Ensis arcuatus and Spisula solida, occurred in disintegrating maërl and in shell sand. The bivalve fauna in the two bays appeared to be typified by relatively high diversity and low biomass – which is accentuated by recent natural mortalities of Ensis arcuatus, a dominant species - and this is likely to prove a challenge to marketing; the Irish market typically exploits small numbers of clam species simultaneously. The terms of the licence under which CSC operates may provide opportunities to exploit clams within their designated area by means other than hydraulic dredging and these should be investigated. In view of the scientific values of the area and its status as a cSAC any plan to exploit its interstitial bivalves should be discussed with the relevant state agency.