May 26th, 2017
A public meeting has been organised by concerned locals this Sunday to discuss the controversial granting of a licence for large-scale mechanical harvesting in Bantry Bay.
The group, Bantry Bay — Protect our Native Kelp Forest, is seeking to raise awareness of the granting of a trial license for the mechanical harvesting of 1,860 acres of seaweed in Bantry Bay. It is the first licence in Ireland or Great Britain to allow for the mechanical harvesting of seaweed.
The group recently launched a petition calling on the Minister for Planning, Simon Coveney, to rescind the licence granted to BioAtlantis Ltd. Almost 4,500 people have signed the petition to date.
The trial license allows for the harvesting of five sites in the bay on a rotational basis, with almost 500 acres set to be harvested each year. BioAtlantis applied for the licence in 2009, with a public notice posted in the Southern Star newspaper.
However, according to Deirdre Fitzgerald from the Protect our Native Kelp Forest group, the public advertisement did not outline the scale of the operation or that it was for mechanical harvesting. Ms Fitzgerald added that no public meetings were held at the time to inform locals about the application.
Local Cork South-West TD, Michael Collins outlined similar concerns in a recent letter calling on Minister Coveney to revoke the license issued “without delay”. In the letter, he stated that no concrete information was provided to Cork County Council and that the decision to grant the license failed to respect the Bantry Bay Coastal Zone Charter.
Fellow Cork South-West TD, Margaret Murphy O’Mahony, has confirmed that she will attend the meeting this weekend. In the Dail last week, Ms O’Mahony asked Minister Convey to outline the criteria used by his Department in granting the license.
The Minister indicated that the licence was assessed in accordance with the provisions of the Foreshore Act and any environmental legislation in force when the application was made.
“The licence is subject to strict monitoring and control,” he added. “In addition, the licensee is required to submit an annual report of harvesting activities to include the area and quantities harvested and the measured regeneration rates of the seaweed.”
A spokesperson for BioAtlantis told The Green News that recommendations from a 2004 Marine Institute study were followed closely in the creation of the application, while “consultations with a range of experts in Ireland” were sought during the application process.
By law, no Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was required for the approval of the application, the spokesperson said, as the site in Bantry Bay is not a protected Natura 2000 site.
The meeting will take place at the Maritime Hotel in Bantry, Co Cork this Sunday at 5PM.