Mechanical kelp harvesting challenged in High Court


May 14th, 2019

A legal challenge to Ireland’s first large-scale mechanical seaweed harvesting project in Bantry Bay commenced in the High Court this afternoon.

The community group Bantry
Bay – Protect our Native Kelp Forests
has sought a Judicial Review of the
grant of a seaweed harvesting licence to BioAtlantis Aquamarine Ltd.

The West Cork group is also seeking an injunction to prevent the commencement of harvesting until the judicial review process is complete.

The case is expected to run for six days and will be presided over by Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy.

BioAtlantis, the Tralee-based biotechnology group behind the
project, is seeking to harvest kelp in just over 1,800
acres of waters in the Bay.

The licence, granted in 2014 by then-Minister for
Environment Alan Kelly allows for ten-year experimental large-scale harvesting
of kelp seaweed by mechanical means– the first of its kind in Ireland.

In Ireland, seaweed has been traditionally harvested by hand
and the industry – worth an estimated worth €18 million – is still relatively small
by international standards.

Last year, the current Minister for State at the Department
of Housing, Planning and Local Government Damien English gave BioAtlantis the
final green light to go ahead with the project.

The Tralee-based firm plans to use the harvested seaweed to
develop alternatives to the use of antibiotics in cattle’s diet.

Campaigners, however, fear the harvesting operation would have consequences for the environment, marine life, the fishing industry and tourism in their area.

Senator Grace O’Sullivan (far right) supporting protest outside the Dail in 2018 Photo: Niall Sargent

Local concerns

The group has previously argued that there was inadequate advertising for the original license and that no public meetings were held to inform the residents of Bantry Bay about the proposed project.

According to the group, most locals only found out about the license application when it featured on an episode of RTE’s EcoEye in February 2017. BioAtlantis originally applied for the license in 2009.

The Bantry Bay group also argue that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) should have taken place in advance of the granting of the licence. BioAtlantis, however, argues that the EU Commission rules out kelp harvesting as an activity requiring an EIA.

Locals are concerned about the potential for irreversible damage to the marine ecosystem, pointing to the many species in the Bay such as harbour seals.

BioAtlantis has previously told The Green News that fears over the impact on the marine ecosystem are unfounded as the harvest area would correspond to 0.3 per cent of the total bay area and that a maximum of 25 per cent of the 1,822-acre area will be harvested annually.

About the Author

Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London

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