“But time nor tide nor waters wide can wean my heart away,
For ever true it flies to you, my dear old Galway Bay.”
Words from ‘My own dear Galway Bay’ by Frank Fahy 1854-1935
Galway Bay is a pristine environment bordered by Connemara to the north, the Burren to the south, the Oranmore oyster beds to the east and the Aran Islands to the west. It is a noted destination for the many international visitors that tour the newly designated Wild Atlantic Way and is viewed, worldwide, as being an unspoilt and tranquil environment.
The bay is designated as a Special Area of Conservation by the Irish Government’s National Parks and Wildlife Service. Specific features of the bay and coastal zone include :-
Mudflats and sandflats not covered by seawater at low tide
Large shallow inlets and bays
Perennial vegetation of stony banks
Salicornia and other annuals colonising mud and sand
Atlantic salt meadows (Glauco-Puccinellietalia maritimae)
Mediterranean salt meadows (Juncetalia maritimi)
Juniperus communis formations on heaths or calcareous grasslands
Semi-natural dry grasslands and scrubland facies on calcareous substrates (Festuco-Brometalia) (* important orchid sites)
Calcareous fens with Cladium mariscus and species of the Caricion davallianae
Lutra lutra (Otter)
Phoca vitulina (Common Seal)
A further designation of Special Protection Areas (SPAs) has been granted as a result of the many listed, rare and vulnerable bird species that frequent the bay. These include the Whooper Swan, Greenland White-fronted Goose, Peregrine Falcon, and various members of the Tern family. There are also regularly occurring migratory species such as: Ducks, Geese and Waders. Also, of special note, are the adjacent wetlands. Many of international importance, which attract large numbers of migratory birds each year. (Internationally important means that 1% of the population of a species uses the site, or more than 20,000 birds regularly use the site.)
Recent proposals and events threaten Galway Bay’s environmental harmony. Of particular note are :-
The proposal to introduce the farming of salmon, using cage systems on an industrial scale, to the Bay.
The proposal to install wind turbines within the Bay.
The continuing discharge of untreated sewage into the Bay. A recent survey conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency identified the following locations where untreated sewage is being pumped into Galway Bay : Carraroe, Kinvara , Ballyvaughan and Spiddal.
The introduction of a Canadian company to enhance the industrialization of seaweed harvesting.
The ever increasing deposition of varied debris into the bay and around its shores.
The proposed major expansion of Galway harbour. This would involve major marine civil engineering works including the reclamation of environmentally sensitive areas. The harbour extension would be developed on some 27 hectares of reclaimed lands to the south of the existing business park at the harbour. This location is a candidate Special Area of Conservation and a Special Protected Area.