Wednesday, 7 March 2018
Sustainable Seaweed Harvesting: Motion [Private Members]
The Minister of State seems to be innocent about what is a concern of the people on the ground. Therefore we will support the motion as put forward and I am very disappointed that the Government cannot accept it. If it had done so, it would have been a token that it wants to retain the status quoof the small operator doing the harvesting and owning it de facto, thus being able to put it on the market and negotiate a price. We need more and different processing of a much higher value, with competition in the market for the basic product. As I said, the Government should publish a discussion document on the way forward, highlighting ownership matters and traditional harvesting rights, and there is a difference in that. In many cases, there are different types of rights on these folios although we cannot get into those today. I accept that all the seaweed, in law, belongs to the State but people have been harvesting the same areas for generations. Now there is a possibility they will be put out of those traditional rights, so the matter is quite complex.
We rapidly need resources put into this. We need a totally new licensing regime and this should be more akin to aquaculture. The 1933 law had seaweed in it as an incidental consequence; the real purpose of the law came about because people were removing sand on the foreshore and the State needed to control it because damage was being done. Therefore, we need a modern 21st-century law to deal with this matter. Before we get there we must examine every angle. I hope that in ten and 20 years' time, when we come back to this, we will still find the people predominating in this industry are the local harvesters rather than multinationals that bring in outside labour. I hope a diffused idea of ownership and access to resources will predominate rather than mega-control from mega-companies. That is the way forward.
People have seen so many other elements on the coast taken away, including rights, so is this another one that will slip from their grasp? Will the Minister of State say "No" and indicate that we will protect the right of the small harvester to continue in this business? It is a fundamental question to answer. The Government should put out a discussion paper and ask all the different interests to make a submission. We should keep one thing in mind; this is a very important resource for coastal communities and they certainly do not want to lose their effective grip on the harvesting being done by local people who maintain a living standard in areas without a huge amount of natural resources.