Donegal seaweed could be going to Japan!

Connie Duffy

Reporter:

Connie Duffy

Every cloud has a silver lining... well that’s what they say but believe it or not that could ring very true for employment opportunities here in Donegal.

Every cloud has a silver lining... well that’s what they say but believe it or not that could ring very true for employment opportunities here in Donegal.

The meltdowns at Fukushima Nuclear plant in Japan just over a year ago resulted in a massive release of radiation to both water and air. The accident, which was caused by the Thoku earthquake and tsunami on March 11, resulted in the largest-ever accidental discharge of radiation to the sea and numerous species of marine life – including seaweed, harvested off the coast of Japan have since been found to have levels of contamination above government limits for human consumption.

But what has that to do with Donegal you ask? Well it appears Enterprise Ireland recently facilitated a deputation from several Japanese companies interested in seaweed. Their visit took in locations in Donegal as well as Mayo, Clare and Kerry. One of the seaweed firms they visited belonged to Evan Talty, Managing Director of Spanish Point Sea Vegetables in Caherush, Quilty, Ennis, Co. Clare. The family have harvested quality Sea Vegetables through four generations between the beautiful shorelines of the Burren in North Clare to Loop Head in West Clare. He felt Donegal, like Clare, could be a prime target for the Japanese.

“Japan eats 90% of the world’s seaweed but at the moment with the nuclear disaster they can’t get enough. They are thinking of establishing factories all along the west coast of Ireland and exporting it back home. At the moment their stock is running out and I think they will be looking to establishing local links, investing here and sending over staff and obtaining licences to harvest seaweed here.

Mr Talty estimated that the demand could be as high as one thousand tonnes per year and would include Dulce, Atlantic Wakame, Sea Lettuce, Sugar Kelp and Sea Spaghetti. He added he believed the Donegal coastline would be ideal for their needs too.

“They were examining the localities they visited for case studies for their companies and I’d be surprised if we didn’t see their factories along the west coast in the next five years,” he said.