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Dublin: 22 °C Friday 7 August, 2020

'We're delighted': Controversial Cork seaweed harvesting project delayed as judicial review granted

The Protect Our Native Kelp Forest protest group has been campaigning against plans to harvest kelp in the waters of Bantry Bay.

Kelp washed up on Bantry shore in September
Kelp washed up on Bantry shore in September
Image: Deirdre Fitzgerald

THE PLANNED CONTROVERSIAL harvesting of a ‘seaweed forest’ off the coast of Cork has been dealt a blow after the High Court gave leave for a judicial review to be carried out into the granting of a licence.

The Protect Our Native Kelp Forest’ protest group has been campaigning against plans by Tralee-based bioengineering firm BioAtlantis Limited to harvest kelp in the waters of Bantry Bay.

The company was officially granted a licence to do so by then-Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly in 2014.

Current Minister for State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government Damien English granted final approval late last year for BioAtlantis to begin its work.

The firm – which plans to use the harvested seaweed as a means to develop alternatives to the use of antibiotics in the feed of farmed animals – was expected to begin harvesting around this time.

However, a member of the Protect Our Native Kelp Forest sought leave from the High Court that a judicial review be undertaken into the decision to grant the licence.

The High Court granted leave for this judicial review to be carried out, putting an indefinite delay on the planned harvesting operation.

A spokesperson for the campaign told that they were “delighted” with the decision, but would not be commenting further while the review was being carried out.

The group was previously critical of the process by which the licence was granted, with the main source of contention being the perceived lack of consultation with the local community regarding the harvesting project.

It likewise claims that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) should have taken place in advance of the granting of the licence.

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BioAtlantis categorically denies this, most recently citing a September confirmation by the EU Commission that kelp “does not fall under project categories” which require an EIA.

“There has been a lot of misinformation in relation to this,” BioAtlantis CEO John T O’Sullivan previously told, adding that the company would have gone even further in its bid for compliance had it been asked to do so by the State.

We would completely disagree that there was not proper consultation.

Speaking after the announcement of the Judicial Review, O’Sullivan said:

We cannot comment on the Judicial Review. However, we wish to make the point that if BioAtlantis does not harvest the kelp, it will be washed ashore and rot. Is this not a complete waste of a resource?

A spokesperson for the Department said that it would not be making any comment as the matter was now sub-judice.

With reporting from Cianan Brennan

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