SIR – On November 21st, 2017 Minister Damian English gave a speech to An Taisce’s Ocean Hero award ceremony in Dublin. This is an extract from that speech in which he emphasises his main points and objectives:
‘It is important to note that the problem of marine litter is only one aspect of our marine environmental policy. We are also working to ensure that:
•Biodiversity is maintained
•Non-indigenous species do not adversely alter the ecosystem
•The population of commercial fish species is healthy
•Elements of food webs ensure long-term abundance and reproduction
•Eutrophication (the impacts of sewage and nutrients such as fertiliser leading to loss of oxygen in the water) is minimised
•Sea floor and seawaters are not altered in such a way as to harm ecosystems
•Contaminants in seafood are below safe levels
•Introduction of energy and underwater noise does not adversely affect the ecosystem’
On December 11th, days after making this inspiring speech, Minister Damian English issued a licence to BioAtlantis to extract kelp from the area around Bantry Bay.
The licence was issued despite objections being made on the grounds that there had been no public consultation and that notifications to the Garda Síochána and to the newspapers were so minimal that no-one saw it.
Kelp is known as ‘seaweed’ but this description does not do credit to the importance of this extraordinary organism. The native kelp forests have been compared to the tropical rainforests as a fundamental supporter of ocean life.
They also form a natural carbon sink, the importance of which in our times cannot be overestimated. They are the equivalent in the temperate oceans of coral reefs, forming nurseries for fish and a natural barrier against tidal erosion.
The removal of kelp on a large scale as a so-called ‘experiment’ when no proper environmental assessment has been carried out is potentially disastrous and goes totally contrary to the aspirations outlined by Minister English in his speech.
As a trader in Bantry for nearly 30 years, I recognise that the Wild Atlantic Way has been a great boost for the tourist trade in Bantry and West Cork.
It is the unspoilt natural environment that draws tourism to the area.
The plans of BioAtlantis to extract kelp from Bantry Bay and the surrounding coastal area threatens to destroy the very foundation of our very special marine environment.
And, as a supporter of the worldwide ‘Water is Life’ campaign, started by Native American tribes trying to protect their waters and lands from pollution of oil pipelines, and having trained with native teachers for over 20 years, I have some sympathy for the heartache they feel for the loss of human connection with the natural environment in their quest for gold.
Please contact the minister to ask him to start acting upon the words and the sentiments of his speech to An Taisce in November.
There will be a public meeting on Sunday, January 28th, at 4pm in the Maritime Hotel, Bantry, and a gathering in the Square in Bantry on Friday 26th to share more information.