14 aquaculture licences have been granted for Ballyness Bay in west Donegal
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has granted 14 of the 18 licences for shellfish farming at Ballyness Bay in west Donegal.
The controversial applications for aquaculture and foreshore licences have been opposed by a campaign group.
Ballyness Bay is a Special Area of Conservation featuring mudflats, sandflats and dunes.
The licences are for the cultivation of Pacific oysters and clams using trays and trestles.
The campaign group Save Ballyness Bay has opposed the granting of licences saying it has the potential to cause the destruction of the ecosystem, blight the landscape and damage the local tourism industry.
More than 5,000 people have signed a petition opposing the licencing and over 700 people attended a public meeting in Falcarragh in August demonstrating their opposition to the plans.
Concern has been expressed that there was inadequate consultation on the applications.
The shellfish industry says it is worth more than €12m a year to Donegal’s economy and supports over 100 full-time and 300 part-time jobs. They argue the industry is environmentally friendly and involves no artificial feeding or veterinary input.
The decision on the applications is published in today’s Donegal Democrat by the department.
The applications at Ballyness Bay were raised by Donegal TD Pearse Doherty in a Topical Issues debate in the Dáil on Tuesday. The Sinn Féin TD confronted agriculture minister Michael Creed over the issue saying the community cannot understand why the department “is considering placing industrial-scale oyster farms” along the bay.
“There is huge anger and disbelief within the communities of Cloughaneely, Gortahork, Cill Charthaigh and the surrounding areas over controversial plans to develop large-scale oyster farms at Ballyness Bay," he said.
“They are aghast at what has been planned for an area of stunning beauty. I am not sure if the Minister, Deputy Creed, is familiar with that part of our island but it is worth seeing. It really is a jewel in the crown. It has breathtaking scenery, clear waters and relatively unspoilt marine life, and it has been a source of pride for the local community for many decades.
“ The vast majority of people, myself included, only became aware that these applications were with the Department several weeks after the public consultation period had ended.”
The minister said the decisions had been made but refused to say what decisions had been made.
“The process requires me to put the decision in the first instance into the Donegal Democrat later this week and I will be complying with the law on this,” he said.
“Representations have been received from public representatives and members of the public raising objections to these applications and to the manner in which the Department communicated the information to the local community, “ the minister said.
“I also made the point that in complying with the statutory process, there are a number of notice bodies invited to make submissions, and I listed those, including Donegal County Council, An Taisce, the National Parks and Wildlife service and so on. They were all notified and their observations, views and reports are taken into account, including the views that are available to me through my department and other agencies that are involved in the decision-making process. Ultimately, I must make the decision. I do not mean to be in any way circumspect here, but there is a process and I will comply entirely with the process. Once the process is in the public realm I can discuss the matter.”
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