Eco concerns are rejected by seaweed firm in Gearhies

A RESEARCH station licensed to grow seaweed near Bantry has dismissed concerns that its activities would have a negative impact on marine life, despite local residents lodging an appeal... to its licence.

Marc Shorten, senior researcher with the Daithi O’Murchu Marine Research Station at Gearhies, said it would accept any forthcoming ruling of the Aquaculture Licence Appeals Board.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine granted the station a licence to grow seaweed on submerged ropes at Gearhies last month, but now 36 residents of the Gearhies area are appealing the decision.

The Daithi O’Murchu Marine Research Station has been in operation since 1991 as part of the Aquaculture and Fisheries Development Centre at UCC. However, in 2005, it was established as an independent commercial research station, with an experimental hatchery and on-growing facilities.

The station has close links with other commercial companies, namely Fastnet Mussels Ltd and Murphy’s Irish Seafood. It also has a sister company, Indigo Rock Marine Research Station, which has charitable status.

Mr Shorten confirmed that the licence – which was granted on June 10 last – is the subject of an appeal to the Aquaculture Licence Appeals Board. He told The Southern Star that the company would abide by the board’s decision.

Mr Shorten said: ‘We first applied for the licence four years ago, so it has been a long road, but we have followed due process at every stage of the application.

‘As a science research station’, Mr Shorten added, ‘we are not in the business of harming the environment. We work mostly on collaborative research projects with different organisations, including colleges, institutes and businesses.

‘We are part of an EU-funded project looking at polyculture – which is culturing more than one species in a location – particularly the effect of culturing seaweed near salmon farms.’

Mr Shorten said the research station sought the licence to ascertain if seaweed grows better in the presence of other species and to assess if it is, as has been suggested by other agencies, beneficial to the environment because it takes up nutrients in the water.

‘We cannot make any predictions as to outcome – and we do not want to pre-empt the appeals process – but existing evidence would suggest that polyculture would have a beneficial rather than a negative impact on the environment,’ he added.

With the deadline for appeals just passed, it has been confirmed that 36 residents of the Gearhies area are appealing the decision by the Minister of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to grant the licence.

The group, which is calling itself the Seefinn Group, said it is opposed to the cultivation of the macro-algae in Gearhies on the basis that the Minister did not seek an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and presented the licence as ‘a fait accompli’ on the assumption that the proposed operation ‘is not likely to have significant effects on the environment.’

Speaking on behalf of the group, Ian Stretch said: ‘Our submission details serious concerns arising from the granting of the licence – concerns that arise from specific statements, which appear to have guided the Minister in granting the licence.’

Mr Stretch further claimed that the reasons given for not requiring an EIS ‘represented a blatant denial of potential risks and problems’, and that there is a basis, in law, for a legal challenge at EU level, if necessary.


View original article at: Eco concerns are rejected by seaweed firm in Gearhies


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