Coastal farms need proper buffers to prevent sea lettuce growth spurts

August 30th, 2021 10:30 PM

By Kieran O'Mahony

Some of the green ‘sea lettuce’ at Harbour View Beach after the heatwave in West Cork. (Photo: Andy Gibson)

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PROPER buffer zones on agricultural land bordering the coastline could prevent the high run-off of nutrients that have led to the proliferation of sea lettuce at two West Cork beaches in recent months, according to a local environmentalist.

Bernie Connolly, co-ordinator with the Cork Environmental Forum said the high run-off of nutrients combined with the recent heat has only exacerbated the issue at beaches including both Harbour View and Coolmain.

She said that unfortunately it’s a problem everywhere at the moment.

‘I was swimming at Duneen Beach one weekend and I saw it there too. When it’s in excess like that, it’s harmful to other plants and animals in the marine environment, as well as not being pleasant at all for people to swim in,’ said Bernie.

‘Agricultural practices that are edging or coming down onto the coastline need to ensure that they have increased buffer areas where these nutrients can run off before coming into the streams or rivers. It’s a huge problem and very off putting for people coming to the beaches.’

Bernie said the Department of Agriculture and farmers themselves need to do more to stop the nutrients running off by putting in proper buffer zones by planting trees and vegetation so that they can absorb the nutrients.

Meanwhile, a local councillor called for the removal of the sea lettuce at beaches because, he said, it’s starts to ‘smell’ in the heat of the summer.

At a meeting of Bandon Kinsale Municipal District, Cllr Kevin Murphy (FG) said it was important that it was removed as soon as possible once it appears, due to smell, and the fact that it’s not very attractive to look at, either.

One reader who contacted The Southern Star just after the recent heatwave said that they had found ‘toilet paper’ strewn across the beach at Coolmain.

However, some observers commented that it may have  been the sea lettuce which became bleached due to the warm weather.

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