Seaweed harvesting to proceed in west Cork despite legal challenge

Department say no legal obstacle to plan to use extracted kelp in place of pig antibiotics

West Cork residents protesting outside the Dáil last March over the approval of a  a licence authorising the mechanical extraction of  kelp in Bantry Bay. Photograph: Alan Betson/he Irish Times

West Cork residents protesting outside the Dáil last March over the approval of a a licence authorising the mechanical extraction of kelp in Bantry Bay. Photograph: Alan Betson/he Irish Times

 

A controversial plan to mechanically harvest seaweed from Bantry Bay is to go ahead despite a court challenge to the move.

Environmentalists in west Cork say they are shocked to learn that a Kerry company intends to begin harvesting seaweed in the bay when a judicial review of the licence has been granted by the High Court.

Kerry company BioAtlantis Aquamarine has given the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government notice of its intention to begin mechanical harvesting of laminaria, or kelp, as per its foreshore licence from July 4th.

The High Court recently granted a judicial review of the licence,which was awarded by Minister of State for Housing Damien English last November.

The licence application had been opposed by environmentalists including the Bantry Bay - Save Our Kelp Forests group.

BioAtlantis intends to extract compounds from the kelp for use as a substitute for antibiotics in the pig and poultry industry.

It secured the first approval of its type in the State for mechanical harvesting last year, having applied in 2009.

The licence covers about 1,800 acres, but BioAtlantis has said the area to be harvested annually is 25 per cent of this, of which less than 40 per cent contains kelp.

BioAtlantis has strongly rejected charges that any of its operations will affect the bay, and said kelp has been mechanically harvested in France and Norway since the early 1970s.

The Bantry Bay - Save Our Kelp Forests group, which collected 12,000 signatures against the project, has claimed mechanical harvesting may cause “irreversible damage to the ecosystem and businesses of the Bantry Bay area” and could affect the livelihoods of inshore fishermen.

BioAtlantis rejects this claim, saying kelp harvesting overlaps with just 1.14 per cent of the total inshore fisheries area of the bay. “Kelp harvesting will take place in just 0.3 per cent of the total marine area of Bantry Bay per annum, using a 21-metre boat in deep open waters. Therefore, there are no impacts whatsoever on tourism or other businesses.”

The company said it had “engaged at all times with the judicial review”. “There is no legal impediment which prohibits the company from harvesting.”

The Department confirmed this was the case, and said that the company had given its required 14 day notice period under the licence.