Mussel farming started on Killary Harbour in the 1980s. As a natural fjord 15kms long, 0.7km wide and an average depth of 15m it is ideally suited for growing rope mussels.
Mussels are filter feeders that feed on the natural phytoplankton present in seawater. Mussels spawn naturally to produce larvae that float in water and attach as seed to the surface in order to grow. Rope mussel cultivation starts by hanging ropes from long-lines – barrel floats strung together and moored to anchors. The natural seed then attaches to the ropes and grows to market size over a 2-3 year period.
The Atlantic Ocean feeds Killary Harbour twice daily with 1000’s of gallons of fresh seawater, bringing the natural food source of phytoplankton to the growing mussels. Killary is the catchment bay for the surrounding valleys of Delphi, Maam and Eriff which give a continuous flow of freshwater into the bay. The resulting unique mix of fresh and salt water is said to give Killary mussels their distinctive sweet flavour.
Each year Killary Harbour produces up to 2000 tonnes of rope mussels, providing local employment that gives a sustainable use of the natural marine resource. The Connemara Mussel Festival celebrates this high quality, local, natural food that is uniquely the Killary mussel.