Takeover triggers fears for future of Galway seaweed industry

There are fears in Galway that sea-change in seaweed harvesting rights on the shores of Connemara could be in the offing as the Department of the Environment mulls over licence applications from three companies.

Most focus is on the application from Arramara Teo, the largest seaweed processor in Ireland, which was recently purchased by a Canadian concern.

It wants a harvesting licence along the Galway and Mayo coastline as far north as Belmullet in Co Mayo.

Speaking at the official handover of the company last week, Jean Paul Deveau, President of Acadian Sea Plants of Canada, and new chairman of Arramara Teo, said that it was vital that the company would be sure of an adequate supply of seaweed.

He said that an initial investment of €2m in the industry in Connemara was made “on the presumption” that a constant and adequate supply of seaweed would be available.

Mr Deveau said it is important “that there is not competitive harvesting in one geographic area” which would deplete seaweed to an unsustainable level for the future; this underlines the importance of a licence, Mr Deveau said

Arramara Teo, founded in 1947 has purchased seaweed from harvesters in Connemara and Mayo over the decades, without recourse to any licensing system.

Local people generally accepted time honoured rights in the seashore; each landowner in coastal townlands had his/her own section of the shore.

But these traditions are to be tested as the licence application from Arramara goes through the evaluation and consultation process in the Department of the Environment.

The harvesting licence application from Arramara is made under the provisions of the Foreshore Act of 1933 and subsequent amendments to that legislation.

In general, everything below the tidal high water mark is the property of the State, according to that legislation.

The Act stipulates that a licence is required from the State for the removal of materials – which would include seaweeds – from the foreshore.

The strict application of that law would mean that time honoured local seaweed rights would be gone.

See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune.