A public meeting is being held tomorrow night amid opposition to what opponents say is a huge mussel farm, three miles long, at Cleanderry in an untouched area of Kenmare Bay.
The bay, a sunken fjord and special area of conservation, is the subject of increasing applications for rope mussel and other types of fish farming. But there is mounting opposition to the increased size of the applications.
Earlier this summer two applications – one for an oyster farm on the Sneem side of the Bay and another for a 93-acre mussel farm at Coornagillagh around 12 kms from Kenmare town, were withdrawn amid opposition from tourism interests, inshore shrimp and scallop fishermen, and conservationists.
However the current application, this time by Westpoint Shellfish Ltd, Cleandra, Ardgroom, Beara, is the “great wall of China of mussel farms”, according to the voluntary spokesman for the Group Friends of Kenmare Bay.
It will stretch to almost three miles and cover 550 acres of water, said Conor Murphy, Kenmare solicitor.
Mr Murphy was invited to lead the campaign after the recent success by the Save Kenmare Bay Group.
Of particular concern is the risk of pollution from a farm of such a scale and the prospect of acres of plastic blue barrels visible for miles around along what is part of the Wild Atlantic Way.
Mr Murphy said:
Aquaculture is a very valid industry and offers employment, but the sheer size of this farm is of concern. It will extend almost halfway across Kenmare Bay, It is the Great Wall of China of Mussel farms.
While there is likely to be harm to the tourism and fishing industries, there will be no significant employment. Inshore shrimp and scallop fishermen were the first to voice fears and the campaign is from the ground up, Mr Murphy said.
Mussel farms attract starfish and these could wipe out the shrimp which is just coming back, along with the whales, after restrictions were imposed on pair trawling in the bay.
“The proposal would industrialise a Special Area of Conservation/Special Protected Area/Natura 2000 network area,” Mr Murphy said.
Traditional shrimp fishermen believe fish farming should not be allowed in Kenmare Bay and should be banned altogether.
As with the previous application, there has been no public consultation and Kerry County County must become involved in preserving the bay and in reviewing applications, the campaigners say.
Submissions against the application must be in by August 23.
Currently, Kenmare Bay is a dedicated shellfish water area and has A classification in food safety with no known sources of pollution.
Westpoint Shellfish Ltd, is a local company, operating for a number of decades in the Ardgroom area, according to its applications for aquaculture and foreshore licences.
Up to five people will be employed full time by year three and a company mussel harvester is to be used.
The expected mussel tonnage is 550 in year one rising to 950 tonnes in year three.
The reasons for selection of Kenmare Bay site includes good water flow and therefore good growth and there is little fishing activity, according to the documents.
The public meeting called by Friends of Kenmare Bay, is to take place tomorrow at 8pm at Caha Centre, Ardgroom.