Tuesday, 9 May 2017
Topical Issue Debate
Seaweed Harvesting Licences
I wish to discuss the ten year kelp harvest licence issued by the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government to BioAtlantis in Tralee to harvest mechanically 753 hectares, or 1,860 acres, of native kelp forest in Bantry Bay in west Cork. The licence that allows BioAtlantis to harvest mechanically vast amounts of kelp in Bantry Bay is experimental and the effects could cause huge damage to west Cork. This is the first licence in Ireland or Great Britain to allow the mechanical harvesting of seaweed and the effects could be detrimental to wildlife, tourism and employment in Bantry.
The mechanical harvesting of kelp will affect birds, fish, flora and invertebrates in the area and also the local fishermen whose living depends on the bay and its resources.
There is much anger and unrest in west Cork as a result of this licence being issued and there is huge concern for the local ecology and economy. Bantry Bay is a crucial resource in terms of the environment, tourism and local jobs. This licence, which has been granted without essential input from key stakeholders, is seen as a serious imposition on the people of Bantry. They feel that the granting of the licence was grossly unfair and see no benefit accruing to the Bantry area. Instead, there is significant fear of the negative implications it will have.
There was a lack of adequate communication between the Minister of State's Department and the people of the Bantry area on this issue. The Department has an obligation to support Cork County Council and provide information on proposed developments in the locality in order for the council to be able to disperse this information to the public and allow the public to have an input. Cork County Council was not consulted about the granting of this licence, which will have an enormous impact on the people of Bantry and the wider community.
In 2010, the local community, regulatory bodies and other agencies with an interest in Bantry Bay developed the Bantry Bay coastal zone charter in order to safeguard our bay. The project was initiated by Cork County Council to address the challenge of successful coastal zone management around Bantry Bay. The stakeholders' charter is based on the understanding that regulatory agencies need to work in partnership with the local community for the successful management and development of the area. It explores the use of consensus, whereby all stakeholders work together to develop a single agreed approach to its development.
Key aspects of the charter include that local people have a role in decision-making in their local area. It states that all regulatory agencies must ensure that the public can understand how they operate and take decisions. The public must be able to have an input into the decision-making process and have full information about decisions made and appeal procedures. Where appropriate, all developments should involve all relevant organisations and individuals working together. Wherever possible, decisions affecting the Bantry Bay coastal zone should be taken on the basis of consensus, where general agreement among the local community is reached. This is to ensure that the decisions will have the strongest community support possible. The environment of Bantry Bay is unique and valuable and should be protected. All proposals for the Bantry Bay coastal zone should minimise the possible negative impact on the environment and, wherever possible, should improve the environment. The necessary requirements for local traditional livelihoods to survive and be successful should be respected in all proposals for the Bantry Bay coastal zone.
The Department has completely ignored the Bantry Bay coastal zone charter which stakeholders in our community worked so hard to develop. I ask that the Minister of State revoke the licence issued to BioAtlantis Tralee without delay on the basis that the Department did not advertise this licence with sufficient detail, it did not engage in consultation with local stakeholders and it failed to respect the Bantry Bay coastal zone charter.