Shannon Estuary

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The Shannon Estuary is a large estuary where the River Shannon flows into the Atlantic Ocean. The estuary has the city of Limerick at its head and its seaward limits are marked by Loop Head to the north and Kerry Head to the south. The estuary defines the main boundary between County Kerry/County Limerick to the south and County Clare to the north.

The length of the Shannon Estuary is 60 miles.[1] The Shannon has a high tidal range, up to nearly 18 feet at Limerick docks, such that the estuary has been considered for tidal power schemes, despite occasionally experiencing a tidal bore.[2]


In the late 1930s, transatlantic air traffic was dominated by flying boats, and a flying boat terminal was located at Foynes on the south side of the Shannon Estuary. However, it was realised that developing technology would require a permanent runway and airport.

In 1936, the government of Ireland confirmed that it would develop a square-mile site at Rineanna for the country's first transatlantic airport. The land on which the airport was to be built was bog, and on 8 October 1936 work began to drain the land. By 1942 a serviceable airport had been established and was named Shannon Airport. From then, passengers were moved from the flying boats in Foynes to the land planes based in Shannon Airport. By 1945 the existing runways at Shannon were extended to allow transatlantic flights to land, completely bypassing the need for Foynes.


Shannon Foynes Port Company is the port authority for the entire estuary. It owns facilities at Foynes Dock in Limerick and at airport jetty. It provides marine services, including pilotage and towage to privately owned facilities at Moneypoint, Tarbert Island and Aughinish. The maritime history of the estuary is catalogued and on display in exhibits at the Maritime Section of the Foynes Flying Boat Museum[3]

Sustainable exploitation

The Shannon Estuary is an immensely important asset and one of the most valuable natural resources in Ireland and the Mid-West Region in particular – the fringe lands and the marine area both provide space and location for development, activities and opportunities to progress economic, social and environmental growth within the Region. Recent initiatives, such as the Strategic Integrated Framework Plan (SIFP) for the Shannon Estuary 2013-2020, aim to provide an inter-jurisdictional land and marine based framework plan to guide the future development and management of the Shannon Estuary. It was commissioned in 2011 by Clare County Council, Kerry County Council, Limerick City and County Councils, Shannon Development and the Shannon Foynes Port Company. The project is being overseen by a multi-agency steering group composed of the above and other key stakeholders with an interest in the Estuary.[4]

Calculations of tidal power show that 111[5]-367 GWh/year could be extracted from the estuary,[6][7][8] compared to 2.6 TWh/year for the island.[9]


Zoology: Bottle-nosed Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) (Montagu 1821) are seen in the estuary.[10]


An eel trap and transport scheme is in force on the River Shannon as part of a management programme instigated following the discovery of reducing eel numbers on the River Shannon. The scheme ensures safe passage for young eels between Killaloe Bridge and the Shannon estuary.[11][12]

Though the Shannon estuary fishing industry is now depleted, at one time it provided employment for hundreds of men along its length. At Limerick, fishermen based on Clancy's Strand used the Gandelow to catch Salmon.[13] In the 1920s the construction of a dam at Ardnacrusha severely impacted salmon breeding and that, and the introduction of quotas, had by the 1950s caused salmon fishing to cease.[14] However, recreational fishing still goes on. Further down the estuary at Kilrush the Currach was used to catch Herring as well as drift netting for salmon.

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Shannon Estuary)


  3. "Flying Boat Museum - Foynes Maritime Museum". 
  7. Tidal Stream Energy Resource Assessment of the Shannon Estuary, Ireland NUI Galway
  8. O'Rourke - 2014. Ireland's tidal energy resource mirror
  9. O'Rourke - 2010. Ireland's tidal energy resource
  10. Berrow, S.D. 2009. Winter distribution of Bottle-nosed Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus (Montaghu)) in the Shannon Estuary. Ir. Nat. J. 30: 35 - 39.
  11. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-12-14. Retrieved 2014-02-08. 
  12. ESB. "ESB's Fishery Role - Fisheries - Sustainability & Environment - Electricity Supply Board". 
  13. McInerney, Jim (2005) "The Gandelow: a Shannon Estuary Fishing Boat" A.K. Ilen Company Ltd, ISBN 0-9547915-1-7
  14. "Clare Traditional Boat and Currach Project 2008" (PDF).