Green party Senator calls for sustainable seaweed harvesting in Bantry Bay

Published by Sorcha McManigan on

January 29th, 2018

Senator Grace O’Sullivan has called for an update in foreshore licensing and more sustainable seaweed harvesting in Bantry Bay.

The Green Party politician was speaking at a public meeting in Bantry yesterday that was organised by concerned citizens following the State’s decision to grant final approval for a large-scale mechanical kelp harvesting licence in the area.

The licence granted to Tralee-based biotechnology company BioAtlantis covers 1,822 acres along the Beara and Sheep’s Head peninsulas. The project is set to be the largest kelp harvesting operation on the island of Ireland.

Ms O’Sullivan told the meeting that the issuing of the licence was a “sad indictment” of the current foreshore licensing regime that is in “desperate” need of updating. “The government has been proposing a change to the law that in some ways would actually weaken oversight and accountability, which is just not good enough,” she told The Green News.

She added: “The scale and mechanisms of this particular project are not appropriate to their surroundings, and we need to focus on allowing smaller, more sustainable and less disruptive seaweed harvesting get legally established.”

Native Bantry resident Tómas O’Sullivan said that the Government’s “lack of care” in monitoring and granting the licence application was “deeply troubling”. “Their short-sighted approach threatens not only the kelp forests of Bantry Bay but all of Ireland’s marine environments,” he added.

Kelp seaweed

Kelp Photo: Bennilover

Over two hundred concerned residents attended yesterday’s meeting which was organised by the Bantry Bay – Protect Our Native Kelp Forest group that has called on the State to revoke the licence.

Group spokesperson Declan Bevan said that Ministers, planners, and marine developers had shown a “total lack of respect” to marine life, habitats and species by allowing for mechanical harvesting.

Residents also raised concerns about a perceived lack of public consultation on the project, which has created “tension and anger” in the Bantry Bay community according to Sinn Féin Councillor Paul Hayes.

Speaking at the meeting, the West Cork Councillor also alleged that BioAtlantis “exploited loopholes in national legislation” when applying for the licence as it was not required to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment.

BioAtlantis CEO, John O’Sullivan, however, previously refuted this claim, telling The Green News that there was suitable consultation with eight expert groups in the course of applying for the licence, including the Marine Institute, the Marine Licence Vetting Committee and the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

He added that the application was advertised in the Southern Star and details of the application and maps were provided in Bantry Garda Station in accordance with the 1933 Foreshore Act.

According to Mr O’Sullivan, monitoring of harvesting over the next three to five years will be carried out by two independent expert groups in the School of Biology and Environmental Science in University College Dublin and MERC Environmental Consultants Ltd.

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Sorcha McManigan

Sorcha has a Degree Honours in Journalism with French from DIT and is passionate about social issues and radio production