Large quantities of seaweed are marring the popular Ballyheigue blue flag beach in north Kerry.
The county council is promising to intervene if the high tides do not take the seaweed back out.
The owner of a local seaweed business says what’s coming onto the shore in Ballyheigue is the “wrong” type of seaweed — he cuts his from the rocks at high tide, but this is “dead seaweed”.
Not as many farmers are coming to the beach to collect the natural fertiliser — they now get their fertiliser delivered in bags — and this is partly why such quantities are left on the beach.
Acres of Ballyheigue beach were covered by seaweed on Monday, said local councillor John Lucid.
The seaside town, north of Banna Strand, which thrives on tourism, is preparing for the Ballyheigue Summer Festival. This begins on July 4 and locals will want the beach free of the slippery, slimy weed by then, Mr Lucid noted. Apart from how it feels underfoot, the seaweed is “unsightly” on the beautiful beach, which is overlooked by a popular sea-front walkway, he added.
The council’s practice is to collect the seaweed and assemble it in heaps — but this weekend the tides came in and scattered it again.
In the past, north Kerry farmers would arrive in droves and take it for their land, but there has been a change in fertiliser use.
Last year, there was so much seaweed on the beach that the council made pathways through it to facilitate swimmers. The arrival of seaweed on the tide in late June, and again at the end of early August, is specific to Ballyheigue, which is nestled just south of Kerry Head. Nearby Ballybunion, north of the headland, and long famous for its hot seaweed baths, does not suffer at all.
Sean Loughran, managing director of Grainne na Mara, a natural food and health business, which sells the powerful Ballyheigue seaweed, said the seaweed on the beach at the moment would be good for the land, as a fertiliser, but is of no use to him.
“It is dead seaweed on the beach and the big waves wash it up,” he said. “It could be from anywhere. It could be from Canada.”
At high tide, Mr Loughran goes out in a boat and harvests the live seaweed anchored on the rocks, taking a third of the crop and leaving two thirds to protect the resource.
His products, which are sold at markets and some hotels, include edible dried seaweed, sea bath bags, and seaweed extract for digestion and a host of other problems, from acne to gout.
“It is the highest anti-inflammatory food on the planet,” he said.
Kerry County Council said: “Large quantities of seaweed can be an issue from time to time, at Ballyheigue and on other beaches.
“Where there are very large volumes, this is often resolved during high tides, which carry the seaweed back out to sea. Kerry County Council is aware of the issue in Ballyheigue, at present. High tides will not resolve the matter. The council will clear seaweed from the beach as far as practicable.”
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