CAMPAIGNERS against plans to harvest kelp seaweed in Bantry Bay are planning a public protest this weekend.
The Bantry Bay Protect Our Native Kelp Forest group is annoyed that Tralee-based BioAtlantis is going ahead with the harvesting of the seaweed, despite a judicial review having been ordered into the granting of the licence.
The protestors say they will gather on the Square in Bantry this Sunday, July 1st, three days ahead of the planned start of harvesting, on July 4th.
‘It has been nine years since the initial application was made for this licence: can we not wait nine months to learn the outcome of the current judicial review?’ they said this week.
Meanwhile, BioAtlantis has responded to claims that it is ‘ignoring’ the judicial review into its licence to harvest kelp.
The Kerry firm secured the licence to harvest kelp in the Shot Head area of Bantry Bay, having been given approval in principle in 2011.
But earlier this year the High Court granted a judicial review of the licence.
BioAtlantis has since lodged a commencement notification with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, stating the company’s intention to begin harvesting kelp on July 4th.
In last week’s Southern Star, Dolf Dhondt of the Bantry Bay Protect Our Native Kelp Forest campaign, said the campaigners were ‘shocked’ that the harvesting was now going ahead and that the company appeared to be ‘ignoring’ the judicial review.
But, responding to their comments, John T O’Sullivan of BioAtlantis said: ‘We are not ignoring the judicial review. We have, at all times, fully engaged with it.’
And he added that there was ‘no legal impediment’ which prohibits the company from harvesting.
‘BioAtlantis have fully engaged with the judicial review and attended court on two occasions. The judicial review has no impediment on our activities and we are fully licensed to harvest kelp,’ a further statement added. ‘There is no scientific justification whatsoever for any of the claims made by the protest group in relation to kelp regrowth, wildlife, fish, crustaceans, birds or tourism or inshore fisheries. It is important for the public to know that harvesting will occur in just 0.3% of the total marine area of Bantry Bay per annum. Moreover, kelp harvesting overlaps with just 1.14 per cent of the total inshore fisheries area of the bay. Therefore, there will be no impacts whatsoever on inshore fisheries, tourism or other businesses.’
The statement continued: ‘The protest group are objecting to harvesting and converting a renewable raw material (that is otherwise washed ashore), into a high value added product with societal benefits. BioAtlantis will purify compounds from kelp as substitute for antibiotics in the pig and poultry industry. This is critically important for our society as we now enter an era where many pathogens are becoming resistant to antibiotics.’
Meanwhile, West Cork TD Margaret Murphy O’Mahony has criticised the decision by the Kerry company to engage in mechanical kelp harvesting in Bantry Bay despite the judicial review being ordered by the High Court.
‘I am also calling on BioAtlantis to do the right thing and not to engage in any harvesting until the judge overseeing the review makes his findings known,’ urged the deputy.