Sruwaddacon Bay (Irish: Sruth Fada Con, meaning "stream of the long hound") is a tidal estuary which runs through the middle of the Gaeltacht Kilcommon parish in Erris, County Mayo, Republic of Ireland. It is of historical importance in Irish legend, an important marine habitat, an E.U. Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and an EU Special Protected Area (Birds Directive). Its translated name in English, "Stream of the Long Hound", reflects its general shape. It enters the Atlantic Ocean through Broadhaven Bay, another Special Area of Conservation.
The estuary measures approximately 8.4 square kilometres and consists of a north-westerly-orientated main channel fed by the Glenamoy and Muingnabo rivers. A second channel flows around the village of Rossport from the northwest and is fed by the Gweedaney stream. Both channels join into a fast flowing channel which widens out into an exposed bay at the mouth of the estuary. The lower portion of Sruwaddacon Bay has exceptionally strong currents.
Most of the estuary is dominated by marine species with little depth in the upper and middle sections at low water and a significant intertidal area. It has few anthropogenic impacts with a mostly agricultural catchment and the small village of Rossport located at the centre of its two main channels. The outer area of the estuary is predominately sand and sand dunes where it flows into and out of Broadhaven Bay, the mid-estuary is mainly hard substrates of cobble and rock while the upper estuary has a mixture of sand and mud substrates. There are patchy areas of Fucus cover in the middle and lower areas of the estuary but the majority is unvegetated.
Salinity values recorded at beach sites were high in the middle and lower estuary – around 30 p.p.t. Salinity values close to freshwater were found at the confluence of the Glenamoy and Muingnabo rivers.
This estuary and Broadhaven Bay into which it drains, is an important breeding ground for salmon, whales and dolphins and of importance to the local fishing and recreation industries. There are extensive areas of intertidal mudflats characterised by polychaete communities and bivalves. There are Atlantic salt flats which fringe on the blanket bog, particularly in the lower reaches of the bay. Species growing here include Sea Thrift, Sea Arrowgrass, Sea Plantain, Common salt marsh grass, Juncus gerardii, Juncus maritimus and turf fucoids.
The bay supports breeding terns of several varieties and black-headed gulls. It is an important area for wintering waterfowl, being part of a large complex that includes the Mullet peninsula, Broadhaven and Blacksod Bay. The following species have nationally important populations – Red-breasted merganser, Sand martin, Ringed plover, Grey plover, Sanderling, Dunlin, Bar-tailed godwit, Brent Goose, Oystercatcher, Golden plover, Lapwing, knot, Curlew, Redshank and Turnstone.
Children of Lir
Sruth Fada Conn or Irrus Domnann as it was known, is the bay where the legendary Children of Lir spent their last 300 years as captive swans before flying to the nearby Island of Inishglora where they took back their human forms and died instantly because of their great age.
The archaeological survey carried out in 2008 for Royal Dutch Shell by the Archaeological Diving Company in Sruwaddacon Bay took some sample cores from the bay. One of their cores close to Aghoose townland turned up hazelnut shells at a depth of 10.7 metres under the bay. These have been held for analysis to be dated by the archaeological team concerned. The significance of a number of hazelnut shells is they could likely be indicative of habitation during the Mesolithic period (some 9,000 years ago approx). It is likely that early people, Mesolithic and Neolithic lived on the shores of Sruwaddacon Bay in some numbers as the area has many signs of Mesolithic habitation and there are many sites of Neolithic age in the surrounding townlands. Approximately 9,000 years ago the sea levels were much lower and Sruwaddacon Bay would have been like a confluence of rivers rather than the bay it is today.
Corrib Gas Project
The latest plans of the controversial Corrib gas project are to run a high pressure, raw, unodourised natural gas pipeline up the middle of this bay. Shell are planning to construct a tunnel under the bay in order to receive planning approval from An Bord Pleanala. The local community and representatives of Pobal Chill Chomáin and Shell to Sea have fought the project through the Courts, through Oral Hearings and through direct action campaigns for the last ten years as gas was first mooted to be flowing from here to Galway in 2002. Kept under community pressure, Shell's latest timescale is now 2013/14.
- Sruwaddacon Bay Placenames Database of Ireland. Retrieved: 2012-09-26.
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