Carril Shellfish Growers. Seeding and Care
The Carril shellfish growers are an organization of producers constituted on November 13, 1989. Its primary duty is to manage, defend, and coordinate the common interests of its members, although it undertakes other tasks, including representing its members and mediating issues with and between public offices, and when necessary, according to regulations.
Sandy Substrate Area of Approximately One Million Square Meters
With a seafaring tradition spanning more than 500 years, the Carril shellfish growers cultivate 1,283 plots of land granted to 650 producer families -most of them belonging to the organization. The growing farms occupy a total area of about one million square meters of a sandy substrate, situated in a unique environment: a sandy stretch that begins on the beach of A Concha in Vilagarcía de Arousa and runs parallel to the Compostela and Castelete beaches, continuing between Carril and Cortegada Island –the latter belonging to the Atlantic Islands of Galicia National Maritime-Terrestrial Park –until the Ulla river’s mouth.
The shellfish growers represent one of the first economic activities in Vilagarcía de Arousa. On average, they produce approximately 3,200 tons, equivalent per year to more than 16 million euros.
They used wooden poles and metal beacons to delimit the aquaculture shellfish growing areas. These fields are cultivated in a completely artisanal and sustainable manner, growing three species of clams (Pullet carpet shell, Grooved carpet shell, and Japanese littleneck) and cockles in a sandy substrate. Of the 1,283 shellfish farms, a high percentage does not exceed 500 m2.
The cockles are a 100% natural catching; however, when the settlements exceed 2,000 individuals per m2 with a size equal or greater than 10 millimeters, it is necessary to unfold (separate and move) them to achieve a higher growth rate and make space for clams between 9 and 11 millimeters, thus keeping a productive balance profitable.
Quality of the «Carril Clam»
The high quality of «Carril Clam» is primarily attributable to selecting and acquiring the finest seeds for later growing in culture farms. The convergence of the Ulla River with the seawater provides a unique ecosystem rich in nutrients to feed the bivalves, making the culture of the «Carril Clam» recognizable worldwide for its exquisite flavor.
These clams need some prerequisites for culture, such as thorough maintenance of the bottom. Algae removal from the growing field is necessary to harvest these bivalves adequately and allow them to develop correctly. Also required is the control of the natural predators of this mollusk, which play a decisive role in the survival of juvenile specimens and, ultimately, production. Therefore, to catch them during their most vulnerable times, Carril growers use fishing gear and traditional Galician traps, called nasas, conforming to Decree 15/2011 issued on January 28, which regulates the gear, tackle, tools, equipment, and techniques permitted for the professional extraction of living marine resources in waters under the jurisdiction of the Autonomous Community of Galicia.
Occasionally, sand displacements might occur in the Carril growing farms, depending on the intensity of the waves, storms, and other atmospheric conditions. Therefore, it creates the need to replace or recondition them virtually annually since the culture fields are artificial, requiring constant maintenance to keep their worth.
The Carril shellfish growers manage the condition of the substrate (sand) by adding aggregates and removing algae, mud, and predators to implement production. Producers carry out these tasks in their plots, each obtaining approximately 30% of the harvest from the natural environment with catches of native cockles and clams, completing the production with hatchery seeds.
Additionally, they employ a bottom-plowing technique to increase substrate oxygenation so that the clams can access oxygen and ease their breathing. Also, they place juvenile specimens alternately at various depths to ensure a suitable water current for their growth.
On top of that, pollution control and environmental awareness are two factors with significant relevance in the care of the Mollusk culture fields; therefore, in this regard, the Carril shellfish growing organization has undertaken different initiatives to prevent any harm to the culture farms that would jeopardize their production.