The High Court has ruled that there is no effective licence to permit the mechanical extraction of kelp from Bantry Bay. BioAtlantis Aquamarine Ltd. – a Tralee-based biotechnology company – applied in 2009 for a foreshore licence to harvest kelp from over 1,860 acres, the largest mechanical extraction ever proposed in Britain or Ireland. On May 20, the High Court determined that no licence has yet been issued, as a result of the Government’s failure to comply with all the requirements of the 1933 Foreshore Act.
Justice Murphy noted that the Foreshore Act includes a provision requiring the Minister to publish his decision to grant this foreshore licence in Iris Oifigúil, the official state gazette. The decision has yet to be published, and therefore, Justice Murphy ruled, ‘the Licence Agreement which was executed in 2014 is not yet operative or effective’.
Referring to Ireland’s statutory obligations under the 1998 Aarhus Convention, Justice Deirdre Murphy held that the public have a right to be informed of, and to challenge, government decisions regarding environmental matters. ‘The determination of every relevant [foreshore] application must be published … and the public must be informed of the right to question the validity of the determination as provided,’ she said. ‘Until those provisions are complied with the licencing process is not complete’.
Although the Minister can publish his decision now, this would allow members of the public to challenge the licence in its entirety, going back to the application in 2009. In April 2018 an aquaculture licence was granted by the Dept of Marine to grow seaweed on longlines on an area which overlaps with the proposed Kelp extraction licence area. If the Minister was to try to give legal effect to the Kelp extraction licence now, he would effectively be trying to put it on top of a pre-existing licence area.
Bantry Bay – Protect Our Native Kelp Forests welcomes the Court’s decision, and its strong stance in favour of the public’s right to be informed regarding activities which could significantly impact the local environment. We would very much like to thank all of our supporters for all the time, effort and resources that have been given. This has been a massive community effort. Even though this is a huge victory it is unfortunately expected that the Minister will appeal this decision to the Supreme Court.