Meet Colin Whooley owner of Roaring Water Bay Rope Mussels.
This is his Story.
What makes the mussels from Roaring Water Bay so good? West Talk finds out.
(Colin Whooley of Roaring Water Bay Rope Mussels)
Roaring Water Bay is the Southernmost bay in Ireland. The bay is home to some of the cleanest water in the country. Roaring Water Bay is thriving with natural aqua life and one of the main species found here are Mussels. I spoke to Colin Whooley, owner of Roaring Water Bay Rope Mussels which was founded in 1991. Colin is an expert in the production of Mussels and works together with the natural elements of the Bay to produce the best quality mussels in Ireland whilst making sure the natural aqua life of the Bay continues to thrive.
(Harvesting Mussels on Roaring Water Bay)
Before Colin ventured into the mussel industry he had many hobbies and from an early age he had a love for football. A proud Ilen Rovers man, Colin spoke to me about his time playing for the club, “ My hobbies and interests were football and football! Ilen Rovers was relatively newly formed. It was formed 10 years before I started playing.” Colin was playing with Ilen Rovers when they made their way from a Junior Club to an Intermediate Club. A lot of people argue the Junior A grade is one of the most difficult divisions in Cork to win due to the large number of teams in it and Colin agreed, “We had great rivalries with the likes of Caheragh and Rosscarbery but once we got past Junior Level we were senior within a few years.” Colin is still involved with the club to this day.
Mussel farming was never a huge tradition in the Whooley family, but farming was. Colin grew up on the family farm in Aughadown learning from his Grandfather and Uncle. He says, “I always had an interest in farming. Our neighbour had a dairy farm and any chance I got I was over working with him.” Colin mentions that a lot of what he does today with the mussels is farming orientated. He doesn’t consider himself a fisherman but a “Farmer of the Sea”.
I was interested to find out how the Mussel industry began in Roaring Water Bay. Colin tells me it began in the late 1980’s. Colin credits two of his past teachers from St Fachtna’s De La Salle in Skibbereen for starting the mussel business in the area. “Two of our teachers from secondary school started the mussel trade in Roaring Water Bay. We would look out on the bay on Saturdays and see them mussel farming. That’s where I got the interest.” It began to grow in popularity among people in the parish and Colin's father and uncle decided to give it a go. Colin started fishing and mussel farming in the late 80’s and the rest is history.
Mussel farming is a difficult job that requires a lot of time and graft. I wanted to know what a typical day in Colin’s life looked like, “The Summer would be extremely busy and we’d be up at 6, on the water for 7 and then you mightn’t get back to shore before 7 or 8 that evening.” There is a whole range of jobs to be done besides harvesting the mussels. Colin explains to me the different jobs he and his crew must do on a weekly basis including packaging the mussels back on the land and planting new seed for years to come. The work continues all year round.
(The crew at work)
Sustainability is hugely important to Roaring Water Bay Rope Mussels. Colin and his crew have adapted their harvesting processes to eliminate waste and pollution. Colin brought in reusable ropes from New Zealand. Previously when a harvest was completed the rope that the mussels were on couldn’t be used again but with the reusable ropes that are now in operation there is no waste. The mesh packaging on all Roaring Water Bay Rope Mussels is bio-degradable and the labels are recyclable.
(The new bio degradable/recyclable packaging)
There are a huge number of mussels being produced on Roaring Water Bay. Hundreds of tonnes of product are collected from the long lines of Roaring Water Bay every year. This requires a huge team effort to make it all run smoothly. Colin has a great team of staff. There are currently seven full time employees and then a further seven part time staff that work in the busy summer months. Colin mentions, “They are a great bunch and they work very hard. The operation wouldn’t be able to continue without their hard work.”
Quick Fire Questions:
1. Favourite Holiday Destination? “I love going to the west coast of France”
2. Favourite part of the job? “Definitely being out on the sea or any work that needed to be done to the boat”
3. Where do you see the business in 5 years’ time? “If we can maintain what we have with maybe a little expansion that’s where I would like to have it. You can only grow so much mussels on the Bay and I keep that in mind”
Why Roaring Water Bay?
I wanted to find out why Roaring Water Bay produced some of Irelands best quality Mussels. Colin explained to me that there was a number of factors why the bay is a good location for mussel farming, “The bay is relatively sheltered so we don’t get the massive swell you would get if you went out past the islands and also we don’t get affected by red tide.” Due to the tidal flow in the bay it doesn’t get affected by the biotoxins caused by red tides. This isn’t a common feature in Bays and it allows Colin and his crew to grow mussels without the fear of them being infected with toxins. On top of these advantages Roaring Water Bay is shallow and accessible. Plus it isn’t a bad view to have from your office!
Supply and Covid-19:
Roaring Water Bay Rope Mussels can be found in SuperValu’s and Dunnes Stores Nationwide. They supply to all the local fish shops in West Cork and directly to Field’s SuperValu in Skibbereen. The Mussels from Roaring Water Bay are of the best quality and are farmed in align with nature and the natural beauty of the bay. They also are exported to France and Italy. If you are having mussels at a restaurant, chances are they are coming from Roaring Water Bay.
Through Covid-19, Colin and his crew, like other businesses have had to change the way they operate. Roaring Water Bay Rope Mussels have taken all the correct measures to make sure that their staff and their products all remain safe and healthy. This is a business that is creating employment in the locality whilst also being eco-friendly to ensure they don’t disrupt the natural beauty of the Bay.
My last question to Colin was what is your message to your customers and people reading this?, he says, “Thanks to everyone that has been supporting us so far. We hope to keep providing mussels to ye for years to come. For anyone that hasn’t tried mussels ye definitely should.”
Colin Whooley is a hard worker and a great advocate of what business can be done here in the local area. From my chat with Colin it is clear that he cares for the environment and for the land he farms both on and off the water. Roaring Water Bay Rope Mussels is a great business representing West Cork on a national and international level. I strongly encourage people to go and get some of Irelands finest Mussels.