By Emma Connolly
IT’S preposterous to assume that the harvesting of nearly 2,000 acres of kelp seaweed in Bantry Bay won’t negatively impact tourism and wildlife, according to a local TD.
Independent Deputy Michael Collins said last week that the granting of a 10-year licence – the first of its kind in Ireland and the UK – to Tralee-based BioAtlantis to harvest 1,860 acres of native kelp forest in Bantry Bay could be detrimental.
Speaking in the Dail, the Goleen deputy said: ‘The licence that allows BioAtlantis to harvest mechanically vast amounts of kelp in Bantry Bay is experimental. It is the first licence in Ireland or Great Britain to allow the mechanical harvesting of seaweed and the effects could be detrimental to wildlife, tourism and employment in Bantry,’ he said.
Deputy Collins said there was much anger and unrest in the area as a result of this licence being issued by the Department.
‘Bantry Bay is a crucial resource in terms of the environment, tourism and local jobs. This licence, which has been granted without essential input from key stakeholders, is seen as a serious imposition on the people of Bantry,’ he said, adding: ‘They feel that the granting of the licence was grossly unfair and see no benefit accruing to the area.
‘There was a complete lack of adequate communication between your department and the people of the Bantry area,’ Deputy Collins told Minister of State for Housing and Urban Renewal, Damien English TD.
‘Until proper public consultation is carried out, an environmental impact statement is published and a public oral hearing in to the proposed harvesting takes place, this licence, granted to BioAtlantis, must be revoked,’ Deputy Collins said.
However, Minister English said he did not propose to accede to the request to revoke the licence.
He said the licence was a trial one for 10 years from 2014 and insisted that normal public consultation procedures were followed. He added: ‘We cannot forget it is supporting quality employment and will help recovery of these areas.’
Meanwhile, at a meeting of the Western Committee of Cork County Council in Clonakilty on Monday, Cllr Danny Collins (Ind) – Deputy Michael Collins’ brother – tabled a motion calling on Minister Simon Coveney to suspend the licence.
Cllr Collins said the licence was granted without any acknowledgement of the fact that the kelp was to be mechanically, rather than manually, harvested. Cllr Collins said a petition – seeking to protect the kelp forest – has been signed by almost 4,300 people to date.