Researchers from the School of Geography and Archaeology at NUI Galway have discovered the presence of microplastic contamination along the western Irish continental shelf regardless of proximity to densely populated areas.

Pollution from plastic entering into the ocean is a global issue that impacts marine life at all trophic levels as well as economically important ecosystems, explains Dr Audrey Morley, senior author of the study and lecturer in Physical Geography at NUI Galway.

NUIG microplastic pollution

Microplastics found in Irish Marine sediments. A subset of recovered microplastics at 40-50x magnifications. (L) A frayed and tangled fibre from Galway Bay’s North Sound. (C) A heavily biofouled transparent fibre from the Aran Grounds. (R) A tangled ball of fibres identified during method testing from Galway Bay’s South Sound (52°57.722N, 9°33.358W). Photo:[Martin et al., 2017]


“The pervasive presence of microplastics on the Irish continental shelf bares significant risks for economically important Irish fisheries, for example the Galway Bay Prawn (Nephrops Norbegicus).

“Kerry and the wider south west region have led the way in terms of rope mussel production. This exhibit, housed in one of Ireland’s most visited destinations for seafood lovers, will celebrate this successful sector and allow visitors to immerse themselves in more than the usual culinary experience as they learn about local producers, Carl and Angela Daly, how Irish rope mussels are sustainably cultivated, their biology and nutritional value.”

The Mussel House features visual story-boards that detail the production process and facts about mussels: how it can take up to two years to reach market size; how mussels gram for gram contain more iron than beef; how a single mussel can filter up to 65 litres of water a day and the species grown in Ireland, known as the blue mussel.

Maire Healy, project officer, Wild Atlantic Way, said the attraction would reinforce the growing potential of the seafood trail:

“In addition to providing another great enhancement for visitors…..this exhibit will encourage those who travel along the route to slow down, dwell longer and immerse themselves in the local seafood traditions and practices of the west coast, all while fostering a deeper appreciation for our exceptional seafood producers, clean Atlantic waters and growing food reputation.”

Kenmare Bay Seafoods in one of the 22 seafood producers featured along the trail, which runs from the Inishowen Peninsula in Co Donegal to Oysterhaven Bay, Co Cork.