Activists to appeal aquaculture licences

An environmental lobby is to appeal the granting of 34 aquaculture licences in a Kerry harbour designated as a special area of conservation.

Friends of the Irish Environment are angry over Marine Minister Simon Coveney’s decision to approve a number of projects in Castlemaine Harbour in Dingle Bay.

The harbour, a designated special area of conservation (SAC), is also a special protected area for birds.

In recent years, draft netting of salmon has been severely curtailed in the harbour.

In 2011, the harbour — an important source of mussel seed — was closed altogether during periods of environmental assessment.

Mr Coveney last month signed off on 34 licences for aquaculture development in the harbour, including 21 proposed oyster sites, 12 mussel sites and one clam site. The applicants are all local fishermen.

Mr Coveney had determined the developments were not likely to have significant effects on the environment and decided an environmental impact study was not required.

It was claimed it took into account the assessment of the area, which took place two years ago, as well as the limited nature and scale of the proposed aquaculture activity.

FIE appealed a random sample of the application to the independent aquaculture appeals’ board.

It said it wished to appeal all 34 but that this would have cost almost €10,000. FIE is taking legal advice on the fairness of the system, which requires it to pay €457 per appeal.

FIE said its main concern was the threat of invasive species, particularly via the introduction of non-native mussel, oyster seed, and Manila clam into the SAC.

“Not only does aquaculture farm invasive species, but it also is a main vector for invasive pest species,” said FIE spokesman Tony Lowes.

“The proposal to cultivate invasive species of non-native clams and mussels in a SAC and special area of protection for birds flies in the face of reason.”

An Taisce also lodged an appeal and is also calling for assessments. However, Independent Kerry South TD Michael Healy-Rae challenged the organisation involved and questioned its qualification as “custodians of the sea”.

These organisations, he said, had moved from objecting to one-off housing now to matters of the sea.

“These fishermen from Cromane want to make a living and are perfectly entitled to do so,” he said.

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