Nurturing a spirit of coastal collaboration

January 30th, 2018 7:15 AM

By Southern Star Team

Gerd Obermeir discussing some of the Allihies Men's Shed projects with interested members of the Sneem Shed. Inset: Allihies members with their award-winning upcycled garden furniture (made from an old cable spool), which was a subject of great interest to the Kerry visitors.

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Members of Men's Sheds in Allihies and Sneem got together recently to discuss their work, possible future projects, and some of the challenges facing communities on both sides of Kenmare Bay, writes Carina McNally

Collaboration between coastal communities situated around Kenmare Bay is on the increase of late, with a recent coming together of the respective Men’s Sheds in Allihies and Sneem being a good example.

Eleven members of the Sneem Shed were hosted by their counterparts in Allihies in December as part of their annual Christmas jaunt. They visited Allihies specifically to learn more about BIM’s new initiative – a coastal marine-science project – that is working in partnership with the recently opened Allihies Coastal Educational Hub. Sneem Men’s Shed is involved in a similar Hub project which incorporates a renovation of the Sneem hall.

Inland fisheries officer, Danny Breen of Sneem, reiterated the parallel between both coastal communities and envisaged collaboration between their community groups. He pointed out that historically, people from Allihies were very connected to South Kerry by water. People often travelled in their Seine (fishing) boats to attend mass in Castlecove or to shop at the nearby Siopa Dubh.

The communities face similar challenges in their efforts to make a living on Kenmare Bay, share the same environmental concerns and deal with a system plagued by bureaucratic delays. The group are currently trying to muster investment in an eco-tour boat connection between Beara and South Kerry. It is, according to Danny Breen ‘a great opportunity there for the taking.’

The day started with a talk and presentation at the Allihies Coast Educational Hub by Sykoni Celestine. A chef by trade, Sykoni gave a vibrant presentation on some of the 600 seaweeds growing along the Irish coastline focusing specifically on the main seaweeds growing along the Kenmare Bay, including dillisk, carrageen, sea spagetti, kelp and nori. Seaweed was sampled in bread and savoury dishes and this was followed by a very lively discussion on the emergence of seaweed as the new super food and source of a multibillion euro global industry; it is now widely used in the food, printing and pharma industries. Many Sneem Men’s shed members had worked as fishermen in the past and were aware of the benefits of seaweed but were surprised to learn from Sykoni that feeding a small amount of dried seaweed to dairy cattle can reduce their methane emissions by as much as 99 per cent.

The potential of aquaculture and marine produce for coastal communities such as Allihies and Sneem was a main topic of discussion including what some termed as a ‘resource grab’ of the seaweed on the coasts. There was much debate on the granting of a Foreshore Permit to BioAtlantis to facilitate the mechanical harvesting of kelp from various locations in Bantry Bay. A similar application which proposed the use of a purposely designed vessel to harvest kelp in the Kenmare Bay was refused back in July 2008 on the grounds that the Kenmare Bay is an SAC (Special Area of Conservation) and that the impacts of kelp harvesting in such an area considered disadvantageous. 

Following a discussion on seafood and shellfish on the Kenmare Bay, the topic returned to seaweed and the fact that hand-harvesting of seaweed is potentially a lucrative activity. The best times for harvesting were discussed, the optimum time at full moon when the tide is at its lowest. This sparked off a very heated discussion on the difficulties of turbary rights, licensing and harvesting of seaweed by shore dwellers in both West Cork and South Kerry. It was pointed out that the traditional art of hand cutting seaweed has far less environmental impact than its mechanised counterpart.

The Sneem visitors were treated to a brief display on the ancient art of mosaic, whereby images are created from grouping together small pieces of coloured glass or stone. The bottle bank area just outside of Allihies village has unfortunately, over the years, been beset by dumping and together with the council, local community groups have a plan to revamp the site which includes the fitting of a security camera and a proposed mosaic on the old milk stand which sits on site.

After a visit to the nearby Allihies Copper Mine Museum, the group made their way to the Allihies Men’s Shed building where they were warmly greeted by PJ Phadraig O’Sullivan of Garnish and Gerd Obermier of Allihies. They were impressed by the award-winning ‘Furniture Upscale’ project undertaken by their Allihies counterparts and particular interest was shown in the renovation of the antique tractor and donkey cart and apparel. Hopefully leaving with ideas for their own Shed, Sneem’s Louis Moriarty stated ‘we are always throwing ideas out to improve the lives of people here in the peripheries.’

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