Concerns over plans for oyster farms in west Donegal

Local group says licenses for the farms cover an area of 99 acres.

Carolyn Farrar

Reporter:

Carolyn Farrar

Email:

carolyn.farrar@donegaldemocrat.com

Concerns over plans for oyster farms in west Donegal

A local group is submitting an appeal to licenses for planned oyster farms in west Donegal, plans they say would cover a 99-acre area.

The group, Coiste Timpeallachta an Ghaoth, the Channel Environmental Group, is also applying for an oral hearing.

A spokesperson for the coiste said people do not oppose oyster farms and said local communities have lived easily alongside long-standing farms.

The group is opposed to the size and scale of these proposals, he said.

On December 15th of 2016, a public notice published in the Democrat reported the minister for agriculture, food and the marine decided to grant aquaculture and foreshore licenses to nine applications, including four for Gaoth Dobhair Bay between Bráid and Carrickfinn to the west, and Rann na Mónadh and Rann na Feirste to the east.

Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh of Altan is among the local residents who oppose the plans.

“We are not against what was there for 25 years – it was in harmony with the locality and nobody had any issues with what was there,” Mairéad said.

“It’s the scale of the expansion that I am personally against,” she said, adding that the site was an area of conservation.

She said the scale was wrong for an area of such exceptional beauty, noting that nearby Donegal Airport at Carrickfinn last year was named one of the world’s 10 most scenic landings.

The applications together cover a total area of about 40.6 hectares, about 99 acres, at nine sites. There are a small number of sites there now. “It’s the rapid expansion – it’s alarming,” the coiste spokesperson said.

He said the state must strike a balance “between commercial and public rights, and preserve the unique aspects of Irish culture and heritage”.

The coiste was also critical of what the spokesperson called a lack of public consultation. He said a committee on environmental issues that arose from an inaugural local community development meeting last month came across the public notice. He said they had not been aware of the applications earlier, though applicants had published earlier notices.

The spokesperson said people would like to see applications posted in churches, in community centres “and in places of easy access so that people can see it”.

Rémi Louis, coordination manager for Celtic Kerber Ltd, one of the four applicants, said the company employs local people and he is in Donegal every couple of months, but had not been told of local concerns.

He said the company, with offices in Sligo, has done everything properly since 2011, when they first made their application. “We have nothing to hide,” he said.

Mr. Louis also said he has not yet received the license. “We did everything they asked, now we are waiting for the answer,” he said.