That is the official position of the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, following “ongoing assessment of the legal interaction” between applications for licenses and existing seaweed harvesting rights around the Irish coast.
Speaking at the recent Our Ocean Wealth Summit in Galway, Minister of State Damien English said: “I have taken the necessary time to carefully consider all aspects of this issue and have met with a variety of interests across this sector. The position is that my department cannot licence seaweed harvesting in an area where there is an existing right to harvest seaweed.
“I have also clarified that existing seaweed rights holders can continue to exercise their right to harvest seaweed and do not require consent under the Foreshore Act although they must respect relevant national and European environmental legislation.”
Minister English said he has written to all of the existing applicants setting out the position, and would work with them to consider how it would impact on their applications.
“In the course of the consideration of these issues, I have had the welcome opportunity to meet many people in this sector and listen to their views. One of the things I took from these interactions is the great potential to develop the wild seaweed sector if we take the right decisions to realise it.
“I will be working with my colleagues to identify the most suitable body to develop and implement a strategy to underpin the development of this sector which will need to include a robust and transparent licensing system.”
BioAtlantis Aquamarine recently began mechanical harvesting of sub-tidal seaweed in Bantry Bay despite a High Court challenge to the project by environmental groups, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.