Kerry company say it harvests seaweed in sustainable way in response to criticism


Stephen FernaneKerryman

Tralee-based company BioAtlantis has said the seaweed it harvests is done by hand and in an environmentally friendly way in line with traditional methods.

The company was responding to allegations made by the environmental charity Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) who claim BioAtlantis is harvesting seaweed in a commercial manner in a protected area of the Kenmare River.

FIE say it received requests in recent days from residents in the area looking to try and stop BioAtlantis from harvesting near the village of Eyeries on the Beara Peninsula. It insists the public records show no licences have been issued for seaweed harvesting since March 2014.

A statement from BioAtlantis revealed it applied for a license to hand harvest Ascophyllum nodosum seaweed in Kenmare Bay on the 27 June 2022. But the company does not know when the application will be processed.

It added the seaweed being harvested - A. nodosum – is done in a sustainable way for over 50 years in Ireland. BioAtlantis referred to a study commissioned by the Marine Institute that shows A. nodosum grows back again 11 to 17 months after hand harvesting.

However, when left unharvested, the nodosum seaweed gets washed ashore due to storm damage, where it decays and releases emissions.

BioAtlantis say harvesting the seaweed sustainably, by hand, ensures this renewable resource is utilized in technologies that provide societal benefits, including mitigating the effects of climate change. The company outlines its commitment to developing technologies to mitigate climate change.

“BioAtlantis wish to work with local hand harvesters in Kerry and Cork and cultivate their interest in supplying us and to demonstrate how the seaweed can be hand harvested sustainably. Harvesters who are interested in supplying BioAtlantis are welcome to contact us,” said a spokesperson for BioAtlantis.

FIE insist the seaweed being harvested reduces light and heat stress and is critical for protecting biodiversity. This dense protective carpet at low tides becomes a forest for a wide range of fish and other creatures when the tide is full.

FIE claim ‘great numbers’ of attached or encrusting animals are harvested as well as the seaweed itself, which is very slow to grow with a lifespan of more than 50 years.

The environmental group claim BioAtlantis is being investigated by the Minister for Environment’s Foreshore Division Marine Advisors, but this could not be officially confirmed when The Kerryman contacted the department directly.