Thomas Pringle TD

Pringle introduces Dáil Motion to preserve traditional seaweed harvesting rights in Donegal

Seaweed

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Thomas Pringle – Wednesday 7th March, 2018

Independent TD for Donegal Thomas Pringle alongside Dáil colleague Deputy Catherine Connolly will today be introducing a Dáil motion calling for the preservation of traditional seaweed harvesting rights in island, coastal and rural communities.

Speaking ahead of the Dáil debate Deputy Pringle says ‘at the minute the livelihood of traditional seaweed harvesters is under threat of impending commercialisation and from an overall lack of regulation of the natural resource in this country.

“Counties like Donegal would be greatly affected by changes to the licencing regime if the Government allowed the number of companies and multinationals awaiting a decision on their applications for a licence to harvest are granted access. This would ensure the large scale mechanical extraction of seaweed threatening the ecosystem with over-harvesting while also pushing out the individual traditional harvesters themselves.

“Today we are calling for a ban on the issuing of licences to large companies and multinationals interested in the commercialisation of this resource. Instead, we want the licencing regime to protect the traditional harvesting rights by people in island, coastal and rural communities.

“The rights of traditional seaweed harvesters must be prioritised first and foremost. Not only is this a traditional occupation for many in Donegal and elsewhere it’s also the only sustainable method of extracting the resource and seaweed is manually harvested by the harvester. Companies on the other hand would introduce industrial-scale mechanical extraction inevitably leading to over-harvesting, depletion of our natural resource and leaving nothing left for local harvesters to earn a living from.

“To ensure the protection of this activity into the future we are also calling for the adoption of a National Strategy to promote the development of the seaweed industry in consultation with traditional seaweed harvesters and the coastal communities it affects.

“Unfortunately the Government has indicated in its amendment to our motion that it intends to prioritise companies over the individual rights of traditional seaweed harvesters. Once again we see Fine Gael’s championing of private sector interests over that of rural communities. It also shows its endeavour to commercialise our precious natural resources and environment for the exploitation of private interests.

“It will be interesting to see how Fianna Fáil will vote on this motion and whether they intend to put the interests of individual traditional harvesters over the interests of companies and multinationals. If they are serious about rural Ireland as many claim to be, Fianna Fáil need to support this Motion in an effort to stall Fine Gael efforts to undermine island, coastal and rural constituencies” concludes Pringle.

 

NOTE TO EDITORS:

The Dáil motion will be introduced at approx.: 3:35pm (Wedn 7th 2018)

See below full text of the Motion [Government amendment included at the end]

[Motion by Deputies Thomas Pringle and Catherine Connolly]

“That Dáil Éireann:

notes that:

—seaweed, as a natural resource, has been used in Ireland for hundreds of years and is closely linked with Gaeltacht areas particularly counties Galway, Mayo and Donegal;

—seaweed harvesting is a traditional occupation in many coastal areas and is a primary source of income for these communities;

—the Joint Committee on Environment, Culture and Gaeltacht’s Report of the Committee on Developing the Seaweed Industry in Ireland from May 2015, recommends the adoption of a national strategy to promote the development of the seaweed industry, focusing particularly on the Gaeltacht and the counties of the western seaboard;

—approximately 40,000 tonnes of seaweed is harvested in Ireland each year with over 95 per cent naturally grown;

—the harvesting of seaweed continues to be mainly carried out manually and remains a sustainable use of the natural resource; and

—seaweed is used for predominantly high volume, low-value products such as animal feeds, plant supplements, specialist fertilisers and agricultural products, while approximately one per cent goes into higher value products such as foods, cosmetics and therapies, with that one per cent generating 30 per cent of the industry’s overall value;

recognises:

—the role that traditional harvesting methods have in the protection of this valuable resource;

—the current lack of regulation and monitoring in the seaweed sector and the dangers resulting therefrom to the livelihoods of traditional harvesters;

—the threats posed to the sustainability of this natural resource through the lack of regulation;

—the important role of sustainable harvesting in maintaining our ecosystem and in mitigating the effects of climate change;

—the inadequacies of existing foreshore legislation and the need to update the current legislative framework with regard to protecting traditional seaweed harvesting;

—the significant potential economic return for rural, coastal and island communities from sustainable development of the seaweed sector, noting that the sector provides full-time employment to 185 equivalents with some reports suggesting it provides part-time employment to approximately 400 people;

—the potential for sustainable job creation in seaweed harvesting and the impact of this employment for maintaining rural communities;

—that an analysis carried out by National University of Ireland Galway in 2014 estimated the value of the sector to be approximately €18 million per annum, €6 million of which goes on exports; and

—the potential for seaweed, as a highly valuable natural resource ingredient in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and organic food, which currently accounts for one per cent of production but 30 per cent of the industry’s overall value; and

calls on the Government to:

—develop and publish a national strategy to promote the development of the seaweed sector in Ireland with particular focus on the following:

—the interests of traditional seaweed harvesters and their livelihoods;

—the potential for sustainable job creation in the seaweed sector for rural, coastal and island communities and, in particular, to carry out an updated economic analysis of the seaweed sector in Ireland;

—the State’s obligation to regulate this natural resource for the primary benefit of local communities; and

—the State’s climate change commitments;

—suspend the grant of all licences pending the publication of the national strategy;

—move the responsibility for the licencing of seaweed to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine as recommended in the Joint Committee on Environment, Culture and Gaeltacht’s Report of the Committee on Developing the Seaweed Industry in Ireland from May 2015; and

– ensure that any new streamlined regulatory licence regime include:

– prioritisation of traditional harvesters;

– exemptions for traditional harvesters harvesting under a certain amount; and

– the protection of traditional harvesting rights from commercial interests in the future.” — Catherine Connolly, Thomas Pringle.

 

[1 March, 2018] [Government Amendment to Motion]:

Leasú:

Amendment:

  1. To delete all words after “Dáil Éireann” and substitute the following:

“notes that:

— seaweed, as a natural resource, has been used in Ireland for hundreds of years and is

closely linked with all counties along the western seaboard and particularly in

Gaeltacht areas;

— the main type of seaweed harvested along the western seaboard is Ascophyllum

nodosum;

— seaweed harvesting is a traditional occupation in many coastal areas and is one of a

number of income sources for communities;

— the Joint Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht’s Report on

Developing the Seaweed Industry in Ireland from May 2015, recommends the

adoption of a national strategy to promote the development of the seaweed industry,

focusing particularly on the Gaeltacht and the counties of the western seaboard;

— approximately 40,000 tonnes of seaweed is harvested in Ireland each year, with over

95 per cent naturally grown;

— the harvesting of seaweed continues to be mainly carried out manually and remains a

sustainable use of the natural resource; and

— seaweed is used for predominantly high-volume, low-value products such as animal

feeds, plant supplements, specialist fertilisers and agricultural products, but

significant quantities are also used in the production of higher value products such as

animal probiotics, high-value fertilisers, cosmetics and therapies, which increasingly

contribute positively to the industry’s overall value;

recognises:

— the role that all harvesters of seaweed, either as a traditional harvester or a company,

have in the protection of this valuable resource through the use of sustainable

harvesting techniques;

— the work of the Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local

Government, Damien English TD, in bringing legal clarity to issues regarding the

interface between applications by companies to harvest seaweed and the rights of

traditional harvesters;

— the important role of sustainable harvesting in maintaining ecosystems in bays and

coastal marine locations;

— the ongoing work to advance the Maritime Area and Foreshore (Amendment) Bill to

reform and update the existing foreshore legislation;

— the significant potential economic return for rural, coastal and island communities

from sustainable development of the seaweed sector which can be achieved through

the application of research and development, especially in the emerging bio-stimulant

industry;

— the application of production processes which enable the retention of the nutrients of

seaweed and allow their application into various high-value products;

— the potential for sustainable and high-value job creation in all aspects of the seaweed

industry including research and development, production and sales and marketing

across global markets and the impact of this employment for maintaining and

stimulating the economy of coastal rural communities;

— that an analysis carried out by National University of Ireland Galway in 2014

estimated that, at that time, the value of the sector to be approximately €18 million per

annum, €6 million of which goes on exports; and

— the potential for seaweed, as a highly valuable natural resource ingredient in biostimulant,

cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and organic food; and

reaffirms that the Government will:

— through the Marine Co-ordination Group, continue to advance and promote the

sustainable development of the seaweed sector in Ireland;

— continue the ongoing work to advance the Maritime Area and Foreshore

(Amendment) Bill to modernise the existing foreshore legislation; and

— finalise, as quickly as possible, its work to bring legal clarity to issues regarding the

interface between applications for the harvesting of wild seaweed by companies and

the rights of traditional harvesters and, in the interim, such applications will remain

on hold.” — An tAire Tithíochta, Pleanála agus Rialtais Áitiúil.

[6 March, 2018]
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