Great Beara relief as shellfish farm is buoyantCork company Tower Aqua supplies the high-end European and Asian gourmet sector
THE Beara Peninsula in Co Cork is renowned for its beauty, the ruins of Dunboy Castle and The Copper Mines museum.
What it isn't known for is harvesting Japanese abalone, a small type of shellfish. Also known as "sea ears" referring to their flat shell, Japanese abalone live in the rocky reefs of the Western Pacific, not west Cork.
Yet it's here that Tower Aqua farms the shellfish. Set up by Michael O'Neill and Aidan McGurn six years ago, although the company did not start to trade until 2008, Tower Aqua provides the fish for what is now a growing Asian population in Europe.
"Myself and Aidan came from the fishing industry so we knew what we were about. We also knew that we wanted to do something on the Beara Peninsula," says Michael O'Neill.
"We knew about a couple that had a hatchery and small abalone farm so we studied that and then looked at growing it ourselves.
"We did a feasibility study with Bord Iascaigh Mhara and moved from there," he says.
Now Tower Aqua supplies the high-end European and Asian gourmet sector and is looking at increasing its exports. It's not a business you expect to see in Cork, but an example of the "outside-the-box thinking" the country will rely on into the future.Abalone farmer Michael O'Neill (right) with a brood stock abalone