SUCCULENT shellfish from the rias of Galicia could soon be as difficult to order in restaurants as a plate of roasted dodo.
Due to an unexplicable drop in winds, numbers of clams, mussels, barnacles and octopus have drastically fallen in the flooded valleys of that north west region of the country.
And in a bid to halt the dwindling stocks of the region’s prized food, scientists from the University of Vigo and Spain’s Oceanographic Institute are studying why the intensity of winds has dropped here and nowhere else on the globe.
“Winds and the production of shellfish are intrinsically linked. We have seen a 45 per cent reduction in the numbers of clams and octopus, for example, over the past 40 years,” said one of the investigation team, Xosé Antón Alvarez-Salgado.
Since 1967, the intensity of northerly component winds has dropped by 30 per cent, with a knock on effect on spring and summer tides.
These tides refresh the water, bringing important nutrients to the rias – flooded valleys – of the region, upon which the shellfish relies.
“Records show that winds from the north, north east and north west, traditionally blow from early March until the middle of November. In recent years, these have been delayed so in Galicia they start in early April and finish at the end of September.
“This phenomenom is surprising and is not happening anywhere else around the world,” Alvarez-Salgado added.
The high quality of Galicia’s seafood is due to underwater outcrops. In other areas that can match the region’s shellfish standards, such as South Africa, Chila and California, these northerly winds have increased in strength.
One possible theory the scientists are working on is a change in position of an area of high pressure over the Azores Islands in the Atlantic Ocean.