Coveney green lights contentious algae farm
Irish Examiner, 18 July 2014
Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney is on another collision course with residents of Bantry after he approved a fish farming licence for a company seeking to cultivate native seaweed in the West Cork bay.
Up to 18 objections were lodged against the development of the native macro algae farm at Gearhies, but the minister gave the project the green light.
His decision has now been appealed with up to 36 residents objecting to the six-hectare development by the Sheep’s Head-based Daithi O’Murchu Marine Research Station Ltd.
In his decision, the minister stated the project “will be located in suitable waters, has potential economic benefits and will have no significant ecological effects on wild fisheries, natural habitats, flora and fauna or the environment generally”.
Bord Iascaigh Mhara wants to increase seaweed farming in Ireland and the production and processing of the plant could be worth up to €30m by 2020.
Seaweed is used for medicines, as a functional food and in beauty products.
One of the greatest concerns of the opponents is the Minister stipulated an environmental impact statement (EIS) was not necessary for the project.
One of the objectors, Ian Stretch accused the Minister of attempting to “railroad” the project through and of acting in a “insupportable and cavalier fashion” by not seeking an EIS.
The group — calling themselves the Seefinn Group— have threatened to take legal action against the project unless licensing approval was reversed.
The group describe the site as “unsuitable” as Bantry Bay already accommodates salmon farming and was designated by the EU as having special environmental significance.
Some locals also fear allowing salmon and seaweed industries to live side by side could also see one farm contaminate the other.
They also argue that efforts to prevent contamination could lead to increased use of chemicals and more pollution in the waters.
In its decision, the Department of Agriculture described the Gearhies area as having a small population, but the objectors say there are scores of homes with a view of the proposed site.
They also argue that “cherished views” of the sea from the Sheep’s Head Walk would be damaged by the farm and that it could harm marine recreation in the area.