More than 500 submissions on Marine Institute’s plans

An Ocean Energy Buoy in trials on the Galway Bay test site

The Marine Institute’s planned test site off the coast of An Spidéal has attracted a wave of opposition from concerned individuals and organisations.

A total of 557 submissions were lodged as part of the public consultation on the Galway Bay marine and renewable test energy site, it has been confirmed.

One local business has claimed the development has the potential to lead to 20 job losses, and local fishermen have also expressed concern that it will damage their livelihoods.

The family-run Park Lodge Hotel or Óstán na Páirce in An Spidéal “strongly” opposes the application for a 35-year foreshore lease.

“We have used Galway Bay at Park Lodge Hotel as a unique selling point in promoting our hotel over the past 36 years. We are concerned if this application is approved our business will suffer and result in a loss of 20 jobs for local people.

“This is unacceptable and consequently must not be allowed to happen as it will impact the wider tourism industry, which over the past two to three years has grown due to the Wild Atlantic Way,” the hotel’s submission reads.

A father and son fishermen duo, who operate a prawn trawler in the area, and have done since the 1960s, is also opposing the application.

The objector, whose name has been redacted, said they fish for prawns to the north, south, east and west of the site in question, and “not just to the west of it as the Marine Institute state in their application.”

“We lost a considerable amount of prosperous fishing ground when the original lease was granted without our knowledge in 2006, when we agreed to a site further to the southeast,” the submission reads.

It adds: “Our concern is that if a new lease is granted, the holders will increase the area of the site or God forbid seek an exclusion zone around the site without our knowledge just like ten years ago. If this were to happen it would mean considerable financial loss to our vessels, crews and families.”

Fishermen on the Aran Islands have also objected to the location of the test site, due to the potential negative impacts on prawn fishing.

“I am writing to you expressing a major concern in relation to the site location of this project,” said Sean Griffin, General Manager of Galway and Aran Fishermen’s CO-OP ltd.

“I believe that the project is worthwhile but the site location could be changed. It would not need to be changed drastically, possibly a mile or so further near Galway. The reason for the issue with the current proposed location is that it is in the middle of prawn grounds that a number of smaller trawlers fish during the year. This number has become more significant as the catches have increased in this area in the last two years.

“Surveys carried out by the Marine Institute show a high density of prawns in this location. I would propose that the Marine Institute sit down with the boats who are members of Galway and Aran Co-Op in order for them to determine what areas are fishing grounds and which are not, in this area.”

Fianna Fáil Galway County Councillor, Seán Ó Tuairisg, in his submission as Gaeilge, simply called for a public hearing into the application.

Scores of private individuals made submissions as part of the process, as well as organisations such as An Taisce, Friends of the Earth, University of Sussex, Environmental Action Alliance, Clare County Council, Fáilte Ireland and Coastal Concern Alliance.

Concerns raised – as summarised by the authorities – include incorrect information, vague information about economic benefits, misleading information, a conflict of interest and lack of impartiality of Minister Simon Coveney, no Environmental Impact Statement,  inadequate information about the impact the site will have on the environment, confusion over whether it will be connected to the national grid, the 35-year lease is too long, it is too close to the shoreline, noise pollution, general pollution, there was insufficient consultation, it will impact on tourism along the Wild Atlantic Way, and it poses risks to birds, marine mammals, fish and general wildlife.

Minister Coveney will be advised by the Marine Vetting Licensing Committee, and will then make a decision on the application.