"IDLE people engaging in blackguardism."
That's how Kerry deputy Michael Healy Rae described objectors to 43 acquaculture licences recently granted in Castlemaine Estuary which is largely fished by Cromane fishermen.
The appeals came from 'Friends of the Irish Environment' and An Taisce who each lodged two submissions, while Coastwatch Ireland lodged a further submission.
Objectors claim that the oyster, clam and mussel licences irreparably damage the local conservation area but the Kilgarvan deputy said the fishermen just wanted to make a living and were perfectly entitled to do so. "They all desperately need this income derived from their fish activities," he stated.
He further claimed that, while An Taisce was created with good intentions, it had been "infiltrated" over the years. "It is hard enough for people to survive at present without these types of idle people engaging in this type of blackguardism," he continued.
The deputy singled out Friends of the Irish Environment Director Tony Lowes who was quoted in The Kerryman last month.
"I believe that people like Tony Lowes have done more harm over the years, objecting to young people who wish to build family homes and so on," Deputy Healy Rae stated.
"Mr Lowes and other objectors have turned their sights on to objecting to people making a living because they have nothing else to do," he added.
Responding this week, Mr Lowes reiterated exactly why his organisation had appealed, pointing out that the area is one of Ireland's most protected nature conservation sites, yet had just seen licenses for bivalves - clam, oysters, and mussels - issued.
"Marine invasive species – like the oysters and clams here - are a major threat with profound ecological and economic impacts, not only do they invade the sea bed, displacing local sea life, but they are also a main pathway for menacing pest species," he stated.
He also highlighted potential diseases such as the fatal Brown Ring Disease and Oyster Herpesvirus, the latter having spread throughout major oyster growing areas in Europe and he spoke of the alleged effects of farmed species.
"The Pacific Oysters form dense reefs, which completely changes tidal mudflats like Castlemaine. Harvesting of the Manilla Clam also has significant impacts as the mud flats are mechanically raked, destroying local biodiversity," he continued.
He also stated that the legally mandated assessment did not address the carrying capacity of clams and oysters in the bay despite recommendations from Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) that studies be carried out in each bay and he questioned how much it could sustain before yields decrease and disease increases.
"Already Castlemaine Harbour is frequently closed for harvesting due to harmful algal blooms. Intensification only increases the risks of disease and poor growth rates and BIM have identified this in mussel cultivation."
He added that alternative approaches such as Polyculture – growing different species rather than one intensive monoculture - had not been considered.