The woman, who was named locally as Kay Mullins, single, in her 40s and a resident on the island, was pronounced dead on the pier in Castletownbere just after 5.30pm.
Gardaí have launched an investigation but it is understood that there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the death.
The alarm was raised around 3pm when Ms Mullins failed to show up at the island’s national school to collect her nephew as arranged.
Friends knew she had planned to go picking periwinkles on the shore at low tide yesterday morning and began their search for her there. They scoured the beach and nearby rocks but concern mounted when there was no sign of her.
Castletownbere RNLI launched at 3.30pm and the Shannon-based Coast Guard helicopter, Rescue 115, was deployed to the scene.
The lifeboat crew, under coxwain Brian O’Driscoll, searched the water between the mainland and the island as darkness fell and recovered Ms Mullins’ body from the sea close to the island’s northern shoreline. The helicopter was then stood down.
The lifeboat brought the remains to the pier in Castletownbere, where a local doctor pronounced her death. The body was then removed to Cork University Hospital, where an autopsy is due to take place today.
Rev Gearóid Walsh, who is based in Castletownbere, said that Ms Mullins’ death was a profound shock to the tight-knit island community.
“It was one of Kay’s great loves — to go picking periwinkles,” he said.
“She would have known the coastline and its dangers and challenges.
“Her death came as a great shock yesterday and is a great tragedy to the small island population.”
He said Ms Mullins was a very active member of the community. “She wasn’t mean with her time,” he said. “Anything she could lend her hand to, she did.”
Ms Mullins helped to revive live theatre on Bere Island in 2003 as part of the Bere Island Troupe.
She worked as part of the backstage crew, and was responsible for set design, stage management, props, and costumes for several productions over the years.
She was also a member of the island’s writers’ group.