[Australia] Despite strong community opposition against Chinese-owned Australian Kelp Products expanding its seaweed harvest along the Limestone Coast, authorities say concerns must be scientifically validated to be considered.
Liz and Kim Redman, from Southend, live in a beachfront home shrouded in native vegetation, with virtually no environmental impact.
If Australian Kelp Products’ application is successful, the company could soon harvest seaweed at their front door.
Ms Redman said an expansion of the seaweed harvest would be environmentally devastating and could affect the lucrative and coveted rock lobster industry that their local community thrives on.
“Taking one part of the food chain out of the whole system is going to have a detrimental effect on the whole coastal ecology of this area,” she said.
Ms Redman said the fine sand of beaches in Southend were extremely fragile and particularly susceptible to erosion.
“Seaweed doesn’t stop erosion, we understand that, but it will impede it a little bit.”
A recent deal struck between Australian Kelp Products’ parent company and Flinders University opened up huge export potential for the company.
Ms Redman said that due to the deal, the company’s productivity would increase significantly and pose a greater threat to the environment.
“With that, it means that it’s just going to decimate the whole coastal system.”
Primary Industries and Resources South Australia (PIRSA) has sought community feedback on the company’s proposed harvest expansion.
Mr and Mrs Redman said the consultation process had been extremely disappointing, particularly in its failure to properly consult key stakeholders within the community.
They said the multi-million dollar rock lobster industry was not consulted about the issue at the last public meeting.
“PIRSA haven’t approached this in any sensible manner at all. Their own business says that they must consult with all stakeholders, which as Liz said, hasn’t happened,” Mr Redman said.
“Consultation means talk to the people, not dictate to the people.”
Shorebirds South East secretary Maureen Christie said PIRSA had not conducted enough research into the environmental impacts of harvesting seaweed.
She said all documents PIRSA had issued on the seaweed harvest pointed out that little was known of its effects.
“Despite that, the harvest area is proposed to be expanded,” she said.
PIRSA aquaculture and policy director Sean Sloan said during the community consultation period it was the responsibility of the public to scientifically verify any concerns they had.
“We wouldn’t put ourselves in a position where we rejected an application just on the grounds of opposition that wasn’t evidenced based or wasn’t supported by fact or scientific means,” he said.
“What we would be looking for out of this consultation is for community groups that have concerns to come forward with the evidence to support the concerns and to raise the issues, so that we can actually go away and look into them and take them into account.”
The seaweed industry is worth $8 billion a year, generating products including fertiliser, animal supplements and high value pharmaceuticals.