Traditional seaweed harvesters in the west of Ireland have welcomed the Government’s clarification on wild seaweed harvesting rights.

The community group, Coiste Chearta Cladaí Chonamara in Co Galway, has welcomed the announcement that seaweed harvestings licences cannot be awarded in an area where there is an existing right to harvest seaweed.

The group was concerned that local employment and harvesting rights would be negatively impacted if companies were directly licenced.

While assessing 17 applications licences to harvest wild seaweed, the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government discovered that seaweed harvesting rights existed in coastal communities. 

The applications, 13 of which were made by companies, were put on hold while legal advice was sought. 

The Dept sought the advice of the Attorney General and the Property Registration Authority to establish the extent and legal implications of those rights.

The Attorney General advised that the Department should not licence harvesting in an area where a right exists unless it can be certain it will not interfere with this right.

The Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, Damien English, has written to all of the existing applicants setting out his Department’s position.

There are 6,500 rights related to seaweed, registered in seven counties along the west coast; Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Galway, Mayo, Clare and Donegal.

Those who have existing seaweed rights can continue to exercise their right to harvest seaweed and do not require consent under the Foreshore Act.

Coiste Chearta Cladaí Chonamara spokesperson, John Bhaba Jeaic Ó Conghaile, said the decision is a game changer for coastal communities.

"This is the best news we ever heard. Minister Damien English has made the correct decision. This keeps everything going; everything depends on the shoreline along the coast," he said.

Mr English now intends to identify a body to develop and implement a strategy to underpin the development of the wild seaweed sector and the licensing system.