Port Moon Fishery
Stones of Giants
A stone's throw from Dunseverick Castle, capital of the ancient kingdom of Dalriada, and nestled amongst the majestic basalt cliffs of the Giants Causeway lies the Port Moon Fishery. For thousands of years men of the Causeway Coast have harvested the Atlantic Ocean from Port Moon Bay .
Seaweed in the form of Kelp was gathered from the shore, dried along stone walls and then hoisted up the cliff, using winches, for later use either on the fields as fertiliser or for various industrial processes ranging from photography, Ice Cream to Glass manufacture.
Baited long lines were used for deep sea fishing for Cod and Plaice. Crabs and Lobsters were caught in pots dropped near the shore, but the prized catch of Port Moon was the Atlantic Salmon. Nets fastened to the nearby rocks attempted to intercept them as they completed their epic migration from the far reaches of the Atlantic Ocean. After journeying thousands of miles, the Salmon return to these waters, swimming close by the coast as they seek out the river of their birth for spawning.
Numbers of Salmon caught at Port Moon varied hugely from year to year with 1926 and 1962 being particularly good years as over 8000 Salmon were landed from the two nets that were fixed at the edge of the bay. However pollution, increasingly intensive offshore drift net fishing and the explosion of the Seal population over the last few decades have all caused a steady decline in Atlantic Salmon stocks until netting at Port Moon ground to a halt in 2002.
Dwindling fish stocks and the changing patterns of industry have rendered the once busy bay quiet and empty. Only the sounds of nature can be heard with no one venturing down the path that winds down the cliff to the shores below except for the odd stray rambler.
Clues to the former maritime industry are littered around Port Moon Bay; Stone walls once used to dry the Kelp, tall wooden poles from which the salmon nets were laid out to dry, heaps of decaying Lobster pots and a rusty old winch that used to haul out of the sea the Drontheims and Cobles, traditional fishing boats of the North Antrim coast.
Drontheims derive from Viking vessels that sailed from Scandinavia in the 8th century and have left clearly visible indents at the bottom of the cliff called Nausts, where the boats were once hauled out of reach of the seas below.
At the top of the cliff sits a substantial ice house that was used to store the Salmon before they were sent off to foreign markets and down in the Bay is an older ice house with its stone vaulted roof now collapsed. The nerve centre of the fishing operation in Port Moon for well over a hundred and fifty years was The Fish House, a stone building that housed all the equipment used to work the Salmon nets as well as serving as a refuge bothy for the fishermen.