The proposal to mechanically harvest 1,860 acres of seaweed in Bantry Bay not only has the potential to be an environmental disaster but also puts the livelihood of 50 inshore fishermen at risk, Independent Deputy Michael Collins told the Dáil. He asked if the Government would consider revoking the licence.
In the Seanad, Galway Independent Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh said the licence which was granted to BioAtlantis for the harvesting of seaweed had raised a certain amount of controversy among locals in West Cork.
‘The whole area has been up in the air for the past several years because of lack of clarity around the legislation and the licensing regime,’ he said. ‘I know it is the Government’s intention to overhaul it. It is high time we had an update on when this will happen. My concern is that we want to ensure the rights of the traditional harvesters are maintained. I have suggested to them that they should band themselves together in a co-op-style organisation to ensure fair trade.’
He added that collective bargaining with the different companies would also ensure the best price for their harvests. ‘Such a set-up would be appropriate and would benefit the companies too. We need proper management plans in place in areas to ensure seaweed is harvested properly and in a sustainable manner to ensure it will grow quickly again to be there for future generations.’
In response, Minister of State at the Dept of Housing, Planning & Local Government, Damien English, said the licence was granted in 2011 by a Green Party minister in a different Government.
‘In addition to that, in 2015 the then Minister, Deputy Alan Kelly, reaffirmed the licence and over the past year and in recent months we have been working on the conditions of that licence because our job as a Government is to make sure that any work is carried out in a sustainable manner that respects the environment and that is happening,’ he said.