A new exhibition on Donegal’s oyster industry has been opened at the Doagh Famine Museum.
The exhibition, which celebrates Donegal’s oyster-producing heritage, is one of a number of new visitor attractions announced as part of the “Taste the Atlantic - a Seafood Journey” trail developed by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) in partnership with Fáilte Ireland.
The seafood trail runs along the Wild Atlantic Way route from Inishowen to Oysterhaven Bay in Cork and offers visitors an immersive experience that aims to develop an appreciation of how seafood is caught and farmed.
The Donegal oyster industry, now valued at €11 million, dates back to the 1800s and today employs 317 people and produces 2,475 tonnes of Irish rock and native oysters each year.
The Crockanagee Oyster farm, which can be viewed from the Doagh Famine Museum, is a second-generation family business run by husband and wife Derek and Sharon Diver from Clonmany. Now a successful oyster business, the Divers employ 20 people who work with the tides to cultivate more than 200 tonnes of oysters for the export market each year.
Pat Doherty from the Doagh Famine Museum said, “The Doagh Famine Museum tells the story of how local people adapted and survived as the environment around the local area changed over the years, and oysters are a key part of this narrative.”
He said the exhibition shows how oysters were widely available on the shores in Famine times but locals could not avail of this food source because control of the fisheries was usually enforced by the local landlord. These oysters were then exported to markets in England, and overfishing in the 1800’s resulted in their becoming a little-known luxury, Mr. Doherty said.
Richard Donnelly, aquaculture business planning manager with BIM, said, “Through hard work and determination over the last 30 years, producers in Donegal have successfully begun cultivating oysters again. The Doagh Famine Museum overlooking the Crocknagee Oyster farm, which harvests top quality oysters for export all over the world, offers the perfect location to tell the story of an industry which has come full circle.”
Donegal oysters are now sought after and considered a premium product on lucrative markets, including Hong Kong, he said.
Producers from Donegal among the 22 seafood producers featured on the “Taste the Atlantic - a Seafood Journey” trail include Crocknagee Oysters, Clonmany; Mulroy Bay Mussels; Mulroy Bay; The Haven Smokehouse, Carrigart; Irish Premium Oysters, Lettermacaward; and Bluestack Seafood, Donegal.