Bantry Bay kelp harvesting project stalled by judicial review

Published by Shamim Malekmian on

May 9th, 2018

An individual involved with a Cork-based citizens’ group has secured a judicial review into the granting of a licence for large-scale kelp harvesting in Bantry Bay.

The Protect Our Native Kelp Forest group has been protesting against a controversial planning decision that would allow Tralee-based bioengineering firm BioAtlantis Limited to harvest kelp in the waters of the Bay.

The licence, granted in 2014 by then-Minister for Environment Alan Kelly allows for ten-year experimental large-scale harvesting of kelp seaweed by mechanical means– the first of its kind in the State.

Last year, the current Minister for State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government Damien English gave BioAtlantis the final green light to go ahead with the project.

The Tralee-based firm plans to use the harvested seaweed to develop alternatives to the use of antibiotics in cattle’s diet.

Last year, Australian researchers found that adding dried seaweed to cattle’s diet could reduce the amount of their environmentally harmful methane gas emissions by 99 per cent.

Campaigners, however, fear the harvesting operation would have consequences for local marine life and sought leave from the High Court that a judicial review is undertaken into the decision to grant permission to the project.

The High Court’s decision to grant leave to the requested judicial review will indefinitely postpone the operation.

High Court environmental rights constitution

The Irish CLimate Case is set to be heard before the High Court next week Photo: Gary Barber

Concerned Bantry residents had garnered nearly two thousands signatures in their online petition against BioAtlantis’s planned project.

They said that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) should have taken place in advance of the granting of the licence.

BioAtlantis, however, argues that the EU Commission rules out kelp harvesting as an activity requiring an EIA.

Bantry residents are also dissatisfied with the Government’s failure to inform locals about the bioengineering firm’s purposed plan back in 2014.

“Their short-sighted approach threatens not only the kelp forests of Bantry Bay but all of Ireland’s marine environments,” Bantry resident Tómas O’Sullivan told The Green News.

Deputy Catherine Martin (far left) & Senator Grace O’Sullivan (far right) supporting protest outside the Dail in 2018 Photo: Niall Sargent

The concerned locals’ initiative pulled support from politicians including Green Party Senator Grace O’Sullivan, who told The Green News in January that the scale and mechanisms of the project “are not appropriate to their surroundings”

“We need to focus on allowing smaller, more sustainable and less disruptive seaweed harvesting get legally established,” she added.

BioAtlantis CEO John T O’Sullivan said that his company has fully cooperated with related authorities ‘in its bid for compliance’.

“There has been a lot of misinformation in relation to this,” Mr O’Sullivan was quoted as saying in The Journal.

In Ireland, seaweed has been traditionally harvested by hand and the industry is still relatively small by international standards.

A 2017 report estimated Irish seaweed industry is worth €18 million, with the Global seaweed industry estimated to be worth €5.25 billion in 2014.

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Shamim Malekmian

Shamim is a Senior Reporter at The Green News and a contributing writer to the Irish Examiner, Cork Evening Echo and the Dublin Inquirer.