CORK protesters who carried a coffin filled and draped with seaweed to the Dáil are calling on the Government to withdraw a licence granted to harvest kelp in Bantry Bay.
A licence to mechanically extract 1860 acres of native kelp in Bantry Bay has been issued to Kerry-based biotechnology company BioAtlantis but campaigners fear it could be disastrous for local marine life.
The Bantry Bay Native Kelp Forest (BBNKF) campaign group was formed by local residents and kelp farmers to fight the decision and this week they brought a busload of protesters to Dublin to highlight their concerns. The protest was timed to coincide with the putting forward of a private members bill proposing “the harvesting of seaweed continues to be mainly carried out manually and remains a sustainable use of the natural resource” and recognising “the role that traditional harvesting methods have in the protection of this valuable resource”.
“The protest went very well,” BBNKF spokesperson Vanessa O’Sullivan said. “We were received by a number of politicians from across the board and we were brought into the gallery for the reading of the motion. It was a really positive day.
“Everyone who spoke for the motion mentioned Bantry and the fact that the licence has been given without proper public consultation, without an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and without independent monitoring.”
BioAtlantis have said they will have arrange monitoring of the harvesting but the group dispute how independent it will be.
“What we are calling for is for them to rescind the licence until such time as we have a proper consultation and a proper assessment,” Ms O’Sullivan said.
“It seemed like everyone except the minister accepted that the licence has to be rescinded until the assessment is done and there is a discussion with the community which will be impacted.”
The minister in question is Damien English, Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, and Ms O’Sullivan said BBNKF have made repeated efforts to meet with him, without success: “We were invited up in December to meet with him and unfortunately at the time he was too busy to meet with us. Two days later, without meeting with us, he signed off on the licence.”
BioAtlantis have the licence to begin mechanical harvesting at any time and the BBNKF have been told they could begin as soon as March or April.