A group campaigning against kelp harvesting in Bantry Bay has secured a judicial review into the decision to grant a licence for what would be the biggest such harvesting operation in the State.
The Bantry Bay Kelp Forests Group said it was delighted by the High Court decision, confirmed as having been granted by the Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government, which said it would not be commenting further.
Tralee-based BioAtlantis has secured the licence to harvest kelp in the area, having been given approval in principle in 2011.
Damien English, minister of state for housing, planning, and local government, gave final approval on November 30 and the licensee was notified on December 6, with BioAtlantis at that stage saying it hoped to start work as soon as possible.
The company’s plan involves extracting and purifying compounds from kelp, which will be used as a substitute for antibiotics in the pig and poultry industry. The overall area licensed for harvesting of the seaweed is around 1,800 acres, although BioAtlantis said the area to be harvested annually is 25% of this, around 456 acres per annum, of which less than 40% contains kelp.
There has been significant local opposition to the plan, although BioAtlantis said it had made every effort to assuage any fears and stressed it had fully and properly followed procedures throughout the application process.
However, work is likely to be stalled following the granting of the judicial review, the application for which centred on Mr English’s decision to grant the licence to mechanically extract the kelp in Bantry Bay.
The Bantry Bay Kelp Forests Group said: “This judicial review was instituted by a member of the campaign who wishes to make no further comment on legal issues while the High Court considers the granting of the licence by the minister in the judicial review. This High Court decision to judicially review the licence means that there will be no mechanical ‘harvesting’ of kelp in Bantry Bay for the foreseeable future.
“Furthermore, of concern, is the fact that recently representatives of The Bantry Bay Protect Our Native Kelp Forest were advised by Minister Jim Daly that ‘ministers have no power’ when it comes to these decisions to rescind/revoke licences — how can this be the case?
“Clearly in the licencing document, under 12.2 of the conditions, it is written that ‘the licence may be determined at any time by the minister giving three months notice in writing, expiring on that the day, to the Licensee, and upon the termination of such notice the Licence and permission hereby granted shall be deemed revoked and withdrawn without payment of any compensation or refund by the minister to the licensee’.
“Does this not clearly state that the licence can be withdrawn with no financial consequences to the Irish taxpayer?”
BioAtlantis said it was aware of the granting of leave to judicial review.