Tuesday, 9 May 2017
Topical Issue Debate
Seaweed Harvesting Licences
I thank the Minister of State for his reply. Kelp forests are one of the most ecologically dynamic and biologically diverse habitats on the planet. The importance of kelp not only as a habitat but as a food resource for birds and fish has been highlighted by numerous studies. Kelp forests provide a foraging habitat for birds and fish. Kelp habitats are important nursery and refuge grounds for juvenile gadoids and salmon. It is preposterous to assume that the destruction of these kelp forests will not have a negative impact on the ecology of Bantry Bay.
While the Minister of State says that the normal public consultation process was carried out, this process was wholly inadequate. Residents of Bantry and the surrounding area were totally unaware of this application. There was no public oral hearing for the granting of the licence. I take issue with the level of advertising in respect of the licence. There was only one advertisement in a local paper and one flyer in the local Garda station for it. There is no mention in the advertisements of a mechanical harvest, nor of the size and scale of the licence. The licence for a project of this scale should not be advertised with such vague details. The advertisement gives the impression that the Department was only granting a licence to hand harvest a small amount of seaweed. The Minister of State must admit that this is unacceptable.
On behalf of the people of Bantry and surrounding areas, I am pleading with the Minister of State to rescind this licence immediately until proper consultation has taken place with the people of the area and until adequate research has been carried out on the effects of large scale mechanical harvesting of kelp in Ireland. I invite the Minister of State and the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Deputy Coveney, to come to Bantry. The community and the area have experienced severe hardship in recent years. Things have been just about turned around, with a lot of positive developments currently taking place in Bantry. If the Minister of State sees the beauty of Bantry Bay and the damage this harvesting will do to the people and the surrounds of the bay, he will rescind this decision.