THE Department of Urban Development has said it will not licence any more commercial seaweed harvesting in areas where there is existing wild seaweed harvesting.
Speaking in Galway today, Minister Damien English said: ‘The position is that my Department cannot licence seaweed harvesting in an area where there is an existing right to harvest seaweed.’
However, this decision comes too late for opponents of Tralee-based firm BioAtlantis, which has been given a licence to harvest seaweed in Bantry Bay.
A protest meeting is due to be held this Sunday, starting from the Square in Bantry, against the decision to begin harvesting on July 4th.
Today, Minister English, who had been criticised for his decision to grant the licence to harvest 1,822 acres – or 753 hectares – of the Bay, said he had made the decision, regarding future licence applications, after much consultation with local interest groups.
‘I have also clarified that existing seaweed rights holders can continue to exercise their right to harvest seaweed and do not require consent under the Foreshore Act although they must respect relevant national and European environmental legislation,’ he said.
The Minister said he has written to all of the existing applicants setting out the position and would work with them to consider how it would impact on their applications. ‘In the course of the consideration of these issues, I have had the welcome opportunity to meet many people in this sector and listen to their views,’ he added.
‘One of the things I took from these interactions is the great potential to develop the wild seaweed sector if we take the right decisions to realise it. I will be working with my colleagues to identify the most suitable body to develop and implement a strategy to underpin the development of this sector which will need to include a robust and transparent licencing [sic] system.’
A spokesperson for Minister English confirmed to The Southern Star today that while no further commercial licences would be granted in areas where wild seaweed harvesting already existed, the rules would not apply to firms already granted a licence.
BioAtlantis has issued a statement this weekend, saying: 'BioAtlantis are licensed to harvest kelp in deep waters which can only be accessed by boat. Therefore, people who collect seaweed by hand on the seashore at low tide will be unaffected by our licence. However, BioAtlantis would be interested in supporting local hand harvesters of other seaweeds in Bantry Bay and purchasing from them, if this can be done sustainably.'