Single advert notified public of application to harvest kelp - claim

Michael Collins TD outraged at licence to allow harvesting of seaweed in Bantry Bay

BioAtlantis, a Tralee-based indigenous company, was granted a licence to harvest 753 hectares  of kelp (above). File photograph: Getty Images

BioAtlantis, a Tralee-based indigenous company, was granted a licence to harvest 753 hectares of kelp (above). File photograph: Getty Images

 

A Government department published a single advertisement in a local paper and one flyer in the local Garda station to notify the West Cork public of a unique licence application to harvest seaweed, it has been claimed.

Independent TD Michael Collins expressed outrage at the granting of the first licence in either Ireland or Britain to allow the mechanical harvesting of seaweed in Bantry Bay.

Mr Collins said the 10-year licence - granted to BioAtlantis to mechanically harvest vast amounts of kelp seaweed - was experimental, and its effects “could be detrimental to wildlife, tourism and employment in Bantry”.

BioAtlantis produces plant-strengthener and animal-care products, and nutraceuticals, according to its website.

The Tralee-based indigenous company was granted the licence to harvest 753 hectares (1,860 acres) of kelp, and Mr Collins said there was huge “anger and unrest” in west Cork and huge concern for the local ecology and economy.

Key stakeholders

He said the licence had been granted without essential input from key stakeholders including Cork County Council, which the Government is obliged to support and to provide with information “on proposed developments in the locality”.

Residents of Bantry and the surrounding area were totally unaware of this application, he said.

Calling for the Department of Housing to rescind the licence immediately until proper consultation was put in place, Mr Collins described the public consultation process as “wholly inadequate”.

The Cork South West TD said “there was no public oral hearing for the granting of the licence” and “there was only one advertisement in a local paper and one flyer in the local Garda station for it”.

“There is no mention in the advertisements of a mechanical harvest, or of the size and scale of the licence,” he added.

Minister of State for Housing Damien English said it was not possible to rescind a decision which had been made in 2014, when then minister for environment Alan Kelly authorised the final legal papers.

He pledged that advertising arrangements would be reviewed for future reference.

‘Important habitat’

Mr English was aware that “living seaweed acts as an important habitat for marine and coastal species and can provide spawning and nursery grounds for various species of marine life”.

He added: “We cannot forget that supporting quality employment in coastal communities, in particular along the western seaboard, is of great importance.

“Seaweed can play a valuable role in ongoing economic recovery in those areas.”

He stressed that “there are no plans to grant any more licences until all these data have been monitored”.

Mr English believed this would be a useful prototype to monitor and for making decisions for the future. “I give my assurance that it will be done to the highest standards.”