It comes after Tralee-based BioAtlantis, the company behind the kelp harvesting operation for parts of Bantry Bay, issued a letter to the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government earlier this month signalling its intention to begin harvesting in accordance with conditions of its Foreshore Licence. It will be the biggest harvesting operation of its kind in the country.
The plan to harvest kelp off the West Cork coast has been the subject of strong opposition from some locals and environmental campaigners. Just last month the Bantry Bay Kelp Forests Group secured a judicial review into aspects of the signing off of the licence.
However, BioAtlantis said that there is no legal impediment to it beginning harvesting kelp. The company was given approval in principle back in 2011 and it later secured the full licence. It said it has complied with every requirement of the process along the way.
There is no injunction in place requiring the licensee to suspend their operations and therefore no legal impediment to the commencement of operations by the licensee.
John T O’Sullivan, CEO of BioAtlantis Ltd, said: “As required by the licence, a notice of commencement was required and this was issued on the 14th of June, 2018. A Marine Notice was also issued to inform a wide range of stakeholders about our operations. This includes the general public, mariners, and those with fishing, shipping, tourism, and water-based recreational interests. There is no legal impediment which prohibits the company from harvesting. As certain aspects of the matter are sub-judice, we will not be commenting further.”
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 the 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, of which less than 40% contains kelp.
One of the campaigners against the harvesting plan, Deirdre Fitzgerald, said: “We were saddened and angered to hear of the proposed notice of commencement of harvesting to take place in Bantry Bay. We have worked so hard here as a community to be heard, over 12,000 people have signed petitions, we have tried to meet the minister on numerous occasions with no success.
“There is a large public outcry here in Bantry Bay and all the other political parties have supported us fully with our concerns with the exception of Fine Gael. A judicial review is underway at present and to think that a company would not afford a very concerned community time for this review to conclude is truly upsetting.”
A spokesman for the Department said: “The minister has set out the position in relation to this licence in his response to recent parliamentary questions. The licence, approved in principle in 2011 by Minister Gormley and executed in 2014 by Minister Kelly, contains a clause requiring the licensee to notify the Department at least 14 days in advance of the commencement of their operations. The licensee has notified the Department of their intention to commence harvesting in early July.”