Aran family business brings it all back home

Jenny O'Halloran

by Danielle Holian

A Galway woman living on the other side of the world had a dream to come home and follow in her father’s footsteps by making the most of the natural resources around her island home.

At the time, Jenny O’Halloran was living in New Zealand with her Kiwi husband, Dave, a marine biologist – but she yearned to bring her children up on her native Aran Islands.

So when her dad, Máirtín Ó Conceanainn, asked her to consider the seaweed business, she didn’t think twice – and she returned to join Bláth na Mara, the business established on Inis Mór by Máirtín in 2002.

They’ve grown the business considerably since – but that development received a major boost this week, as Bláth na Mara was one of 54 coastal based projects in the west to receive a cash injection from Bord Iascaigh Mhara.

In all, BIM has announced an investment of €977,180 across the west’s coastal projects in under the Fisheries Local Area Action Group (FLAG) Strategy.

Bláth na Mara, based on Inis Mór, is managed by Jenny and four full-time staff. It exercises sustainable methods of harvesting to collect wild red and brown seaweeds and work according to the seasons and the tides.

It’s a business Jenny knows to her core since her father and Inis Mór native, Máirtín, first began harvesting wild seaweed about twenty years ago to supplement his main income.

She herself has a background in business development and her husband Dave’s marine biology qualifications have helped to develop the successful seaweed harvesting business that today supplies to food and beverage and cosmetic industries throughout the world.

“Dave is the one I put in the water to snorkel for it. So, he dives down and cuts it by hand and brings it up to me on the boat,” she said.

“Primarily our main focus for harvest would be our dillisk, our kelps, particularly our lamiaria digita and then the sea spaghetti or sea lettuce,” she explained

More than 400 people applied for the FLAG programme this year.

See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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