Fears for future of native oysters
The future of the native Irish oyster is in jeopardy and it could disappear if action is not taken to restore its natural habitat and improve fishing habits.
A group of shellfish fishermen and State agencies raised serious concerns about the protection of the species at a workshop in Galway.
They raised concerns about pollution levels, habitat loss and demise in water quality over the past 20 years and warned that it is putting the oyster at risk.
Concerns about negative trends in output were also raised.
They are now urging fishermen to take part in restoration plans to ensure the survival of the species. These include managing drainage, sewage, flows of fresh water and limiting overfishing.
More than 100 fishermen, stakeholders and officials attended the workshop as part of this weekend's Clarenbridge Oyster Festival.
Cuan Beo is a community based organisation set up earlier this year with a mission to improve the quality of life, environment, economy and heritage around Galway Bay.
It believes issues relating to licensing and governance and a lack of understanding of the chemical, physical and biological interactions at play in the bay have left the species in a fragile ecological position.
"We've been concerned for a number of years about the decline," said chairman Diarmuid Kelly.
"But there has been good recuperation in the last number of years and we want to protect that now.
"We hope to get across how this can be reversed if the environment is improved.
"Changes to the environment have a major impact and we need better understanding of that.
"Overfishing is still an issue. The reduction in biomass leaves not enough stock to replenish itself.
"We don't want to stop fishermen," Mr Kelly added. "But we want them to understand stock must be protected. It takes 20 years for stocks to rebuild."