Protests planned ahead of Bantry kelp harvesting

Campaigners opposed to kelp being harvested in Bantry Bay are planning a protest, while the company that secured the licence has rejected claims made against it and suggests the public has been “misled”.

Tralee-based BioAtlantis intends to begin harvesting kelp from July 4 and says it has complied with every element of the regulatory process.

The plan to harvest the seaweed has sparked considerable opposition. A judicial review into aspects of the ministerial signing-off of the licence is also likely, but the company has said there is no legal impediment to harvesting getting underway.

The Bantry Bay Protect Our Native Kelp Forest campaign said: “A major protest will take place, within days, on the shores of the bay, to express the communitiy’s opposition to this development.”

That protest is due to take place in the square in Bantry at 3pm this Sunday, with campaigners appealing for the judicial review to be heard before work gets underway, citing fears over possible “ecological and economic damage”.

However, BioAtlantis has rejected those fears as groundless and also took issue with some elected representatives.

Local Fianna Fáil TD, Margaret Murphy O’Mahony, recently claimed that, were kelp harvesting to begin before the completion of the judicial review, it would show “a shocking lack of respect for the Irish courts”.

BioAtlantis CEO, John O’Sullivan, said this is “false”.

“BioAtlantis have fully engaged with the judicial review. This has no impediment on our activities and we are fully licensed to harvest kelp. There is no scientific justification, whatsoever, for any of the claims made by the protest group, in relation to kelp regrowth, wildlife, fish, crustaceans, birds, or tourism or inshore fisheries. Kelp harvesting will occur in just 0.3% of the total marine area of Bantry Bay per annum.

“Moreover, kelp harvesting overlaps with just 1.14% of the total inshore fisheries area of the bay.”

The company claims the public has been “misled” by RTÉ’s Eco-Eye TV programme, which aired in February, 2017, and which the Broadcast Authority of Ireland (BAI) ruled lacked fairness, objectivity, and impartiality.

It said it has lodged a separate complaint with the BAI, in relation to a subsequent RTÉ programme, which aired in May this year and which BioAtlantis claimed contained “five incorrect statements, in less than three minutes, on the subject of mechanical harvesting.

“The protest group are objecting to harvesting and converting a renewable raw material (that is otherwise washed ashore) into a high value-added product with societal benefits,” it said.

“BioAtlantis will purify compounds from kelp, as a substitute for antibiotics in the pig-and-poultry industry. This is critically important for our society, as we now enter an era where many pathogens are becoming resistant to antibiotics.”

The company said that on its Facebook page (at it addresses all the concerns raised.

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