Family Business Producing Top Quality Shellfish in the South West
Located between the stunning Dingle and Iveragh peninsulas in west Kerry, Realt na Mara Shellfish was founded in 2015 by Micheál Sugrue and Emmet Casey. This business is the culmination of generations of hard work within the local fishing industry, from which Micheál and Emmet learned their expertise from. At Realt na Mara Shellfish they produce top quality shellfish, oysters and mussels, managing the entire process from seed to what you enjoy on the plate!
You’ll find this family enterprise in Cromane, just outside Killorglin, Co. Kerry. The area in which it’s located has a strong history of traditional fishing methods with an innate sense of skill and expertise that has been passed on through generations. Emmet Casey, Co-Founder of Realt na Mara Shellfish, grew up in this industry and details the rich connection the locality has with this vital endeavour, “The traditional activities of fishing and mussel cultivation goes back generations. The industry traces its origins back to the late 19th century when local fishermen consigned quantities of mussels to the UK market. Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) constructed a purification plant in Cromane in 1940, to facilitate the direct entry of mussels to the UK market. Here our great-grandfathers, grandfathers and fathers worked.”
This food producer's scenic location happens to lend itself to creating great tasting shellfish. A number of vital factors combine to providing excellent conditions in which to produce these amazing mussels and oysters. These shellfish are raised within the pristine waters of Castlemaine Harbour. A harbour in which a number of key river systems flow into. Nutrients, taste and texture from the MacGillycuddy Reeks and the local Laune, Caragh and Maine rivers flow into the harbour contributing to the fine quality of this shellfish. The result of this produces salty and smooth textured oysters along with plump and succulent meat in the mussels. This excellent location along with the knowledge passed down from generation to generation is just the right formula for creating top quality shellfish that will have you returning for more and more!
Micheál and Emmet take a very hands-on approach and are in charge of the management of the farm. They can be found each day on the shore and beyond, nurturing their shellfish, come rain, hail, sunshine or snow. While quite labour intensive, the results of this hard work and responsible husbandry speaks for itself.
The process of producing this quality shellfish is a fascinating one. The beds in which these Cromane Irish Rock Oysters are grown are located just off the shore, accessed by a purpose built flat-bed boat that is used to harvest them. The oysters are grown in bags on trestles, these keep the oysters above the sea floor, providing them with the best position in which to feed off natural nutrients running through Cromane. The oysters are conditioned by sorting, grading and shaking the oyster bags. This is a handy practice that removes any extra shell growth, giving the oyster its desired deep oval shape. The process is long but the final result is oh so satisfying as Micheál Sugrue, Realt na Mara Shellfish Co-Founder says, “the oysters take three years to grow, from seed to adult and a lot of love goes into growing, but it’s all worth it.”
Realt na Mara Shellfish's Cromane Mussels are seabed cultured mussels and naturally occur in the harbour nearby. These wild mussel seeds are harvested from local seed beds and transferred to prime growth areas known as nursery grounds. Here they are nurtured and grown in optimal conditions. The mussels are then harvested 2 years later by hand dredging.
The Sugrue and Casey families are committed to continuing preserving this way of life and have invested significantly in the future. They have developed a fully approved and regulated Purification Facility ensuring they manage their stock from beginning to end. This delivers a high level of quality and added value to their fresh shellfish.
The shellfish are harvested from the farm and then brought to the in-house purification facility. Here the shellfish are graded and pre-washed. Purification is a process in which shellfish are held in tanks of clean seawater which is pumped through UV bulbs. This process lasts 42 hours for oysters and 36 hours for mussels. Realt na Mara Shellfish Manager, Sharon Sugrue remarks on the importance of the process stating, "We care and manage the oyster and mussel seed to adults, conditioning and grading, before they are purified, washed, packed, labelled and dispatched. All these steps ensure our mussels and oysters are safe and ready for local and European markets.”
It’s obvious that producing shellfish at Realt na Mara Shellfish is a true labour of love for the Sugrue and Casey families. They take great satisfaction in producing top quality shellfish for customers to enjoy across Ireland and beyond!