Tuesday, 9 May 2017
Topical Issue Debate
Seaweed Harvesting Licences
I am aware that living seaweed acts as an important habitat for marine and coastal species and can provide spawning and nursery grounds for various species of marine life. Deputy Michael Collins mentioned how significant it is to Bantry. However, as the Deputy stated, we cannot forget that supporting quality employment in coastal communities, in particular along the western seaboard, is of great importance. Seaweed can play a valuable role in ongoing economic recovery in those areas. As I stressed earlier, it must be managed in a sustainable way. This indigenous company located in the south-west area was granted this licence a number of years ago and has, in good faith, made significant investment in a harvesting vessel, an assessment of the potential impacts of harvesting, and the baseline study. It has also committed to further expenditure in regard to the agreed monitoring programme.
These data will feed into policy formation and proposals in the general area of seaweed harvesting.
Given the overall circumstances I have outlined, I regret that I must inform the Deputy that we do not propose to accede to his request to revoke the licence granted in 2014. To be clear, the final legal papers giving effect to that decision were authorised by the then Minister, Deputy Kelly, in 2014 so it is not possible to rescind that decision. I understand the Deputy's concerns as he has raised them and I take note of his concerns in respect of the advertising around a licence such as this. I have no problem in discussing this with our officials in the Department to bear in mind for future applications. It is a conversation we have on general planning applications as well, and we certainly must go to all the right ends we can to ensure that people are informed of potential applications for planning permissions or licences etc. If that is something we can improve upon, then I will raise it on Deputy Collins' behalf with officials in the Department regarding future licences. As I said earlier, there are no plans to grant any more licences until all these data have been monitored. I believe this will be a useful prototype to be able to monitor and in making decisions for the future. I give my assurances that it will be done to the highest standards.