By BRIAN MOORE
THE green light has been given to a Kerry firm to begin mechanically harvesting kelp in Bantry Bay, despite massive local opposition.
Bioatlantis Ltd was this week granted a licence to harvest 1,822 acres – or 753 hectares – on a trial basis in Bantry Bay in what opponents are calling a ‘shocking’ move.
BioAtlantis founder and chief executive John T O’Sullivan, said a start date has not yet been confirmed, but the harvesting will start ‘shortly.’
In response, Bantry Bay Protect Our Native Kelp Forest group said they were disappointed their concerns hadn’t been heard.
Deirdre Fitzgerald said: ‘Despite over 12,000 people signing a petition, and the fact that the issue was raised by cross-party representatives at the Dáil querying the licence and how it came to be, our government this week approved the largest scale experimental mechanical kelp harvest licence ever issued in Irish or British waters. It is truly shocking. We have many protected species resident and transient in the proposed direct kelp harvest areas.’
However, Mr O’Sullivan insisted the licence was granted in accordance with Irish and EU law.
‘An EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) was not required for this project, as kelp harvesting does not fall under project categories listed under the EIA directive. This was confirmed by the EU Commission on September 14th, he said.
Mr O’Sullivan added: ‘It is incorrect to state that protected species will be affected. We have considered all relevant protected species in Ireland and have determined from the peer reviewed scientific literature and scientific databases, that is it highly unlikely that any protected species will be impacted by harvesting.’
Some local politicians also condemned the kelp harvesting plans. Deputy Margaret Murphy O’Mahony TD (FF) said she was very disappointed that Minister Minister of State for Housing and Urban Development, Damien English TD, chose to go ahead with this licence.
Michael Collins TD (Ind) is calling on the Minister to think again. ‘I am calling on the Minister to immediately suspend the licence and to give the people of the area a chance to have their say,’
Replying to the concerns voiced by local public representatives, BioAtlantis’ Mr O’Sullivan said: ‘A small number of politicians have made incorrect claims about our company, which is disappointing. However, we have found that most politicians are supportive of our licence, particularly those who are interested in developing indigenous Irish SMEs and creating sustainable employment in rural Ireland. BioAtlantis are an indigenous Irish SME who are expanding and creating jobs in rural Ireland. BioAtlantis have developed technology to extract and purify compounds from kelp which will be used as substitute for antibiotics in the pig and poultry industry.’
Mr O’Sullivan added: BioAtlantis consulted with eight expert groups in the course of applying for the licence.’