More information about the oyster farming applications

There are currently 102 applications for Castlemaine Harbour, 11 of which are for Rossbeigh/Dooks area.

The Department is now waiving all Environmental Impact Assessments for aquaculture licensing! 

This is unacceptable.

Save This Beach is alarmed at the scale of these oyster farming applications, in an area that is a Special Area of Conservation, a RAMSAR site, a Special Protected Area,  and a recreational and tourism destination, a site is of recognized major ecological importance for its biodiversity and range of coastal habitats and species.

This exceptionally scenic area is located within a Special Area of Conservation adjacent to the Wild Atlantic Way, the Ring of Kerry and the new proposed Greenway track from Glenbeigh to Valentia. It’s a major habitat for native and migratory birds and hugely popular recreational area enjoyed daily by locals and visitors.

A map was published in January 2017 on the Department website as part of an application. This application was approved. This map outlined the scale of the applications that were confirmed by DAFM. We estimate this area to be 400 acres or more. The map was the first time the scale of the proposed farms was made public.

Previous requests for information to DAFM under Freedom of Information by various local groups have been refused.

The shorelines in question cover the back strand of Rossbeigh beach, Keelinabrack, Reenanallagane and Dooks, as well as Castlemaine Harbour: they are tidal shorelines and so are owned by the state and, in turn, governed by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

None of this area is owned by the applicants; but the application, if successful, grants exclusive use to them for 10 years. (We know from the Review of the Aquaculture Licensing Process 2017 that the aim is to increase this period to 20 years.) The licensing application must be accompanied by a foreshore license, but to date this has not been posted to the DAFM website as required by regulation.

Additionally, the applications clearly show that there will not be significant employment created by this intensive aquaculture development – in fact, only a few individuals will profit while the rest of the local area risks losing employment that’s created mainly out of tourism in the area. 

The group believes the proposed oyster farms contravene Kerry County Council’s Development Plan to sustainably promote the coastal strip for recreational activities, to ensure that cumulative impacts are taken into account for these areas, and to prohibit development that would significantly diminish the amenity, natural environment, and economic value of the County’s coastline and beaches.  

We believe the sudden surge in oyster farm applications in Ireland is being mobilised by the French oyster industry as a result of major governmental restrictions on such farms in France.  

Save This Beach has the support of local residents, the community council, local businesses and organisations such as CoastWatch Ireland.


About the area: Glenbeigh / Rossbeigh / Dooks (area of applications)

  • Rossbeigh is 2 miles from the village of Glenbeigh on the South Kerry Peninsula. Rossbeigh, Glenbeigh and Dooks are the gateway to the Ring of Kerry, and businesses here depend on tourism (unlike Cromane which historically has been a fishing village).
  • Rossbeigh Beach is a blue-flag beach, an extensive sandy beach and a designated natural heritage area and a Special Area of Conservation with an important habitat and flora and fauna, directly south of the Inch sandspit. Blue Flag beaches must meet bathing water testing and quality requirements and must “beach and its immediate hinterland must comply with development plans and planning law.”
    Source: Kerry County Council
  • The recreational facilities at Rossbeigh includes a playground, a tennis court, a pathway. Dooks beach is adjacent to the renowned Dooks Golf Club, and the views from Dooks towards Dingle and Rossbeigh are unimpeded and spectacular. Creating an industrial-scale oyster farming development on this area is unthinkable.
  • Rossbeigh holds a Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor travellers, with a rating of 4.5 out of 5. The “Spectacular scenery” is constantly and most importantly mentioned, as are the recreational options.
    1. Reviewed September 6, 2017 beautiful rossbeigh beach
      We walk the beach every Sunday of the year come rain or sun it is one of the best beaches in Ireland when the tide is out you can walk down the front beach all the way around and come back on the back beach it is very safe and child friendly
    2. Reviewed August 20, 2017 Super sand dunes – you can walk for miles!!
      Kids loved playing with hubbie in the sand dunes while I went for a super run on this beautiful beach!! We also spent an hour pony trekking on the beach with Burkes – highly recommend too! Great playground and tennis courts and the wonderful Rosspoint for lunch/dinner and a pint when you have had enough fresh air!
    3. Reviewed October 17, 2017 Beautiful Beach
      This was one of the first stops on our Ring of Kerry trip. We didn’t even mean to go down because it wasn’t in the guide we had. It was spectacular. The beach itself was a grand view. I wish we had more time to spend cause we saw Kayaks and Horseback riders.There is a huge playground and basketball courts. I can imagine it is a great place to spend a weekend. Stop by if you are in the area.
  • Several of the oyster farms would be visible from Dooks Golf Course, and one in particular stands right in front of the course. If the applications were to be approved, this would very negatively economically impact this and many other businesses dependent on the scenic beauty of the area. Other businesses will also suffer the loss of tourism: holiday homes, B&Bs, hotels, pubs, restaurants, coffee shops, tourism operators like walking and horse-riding tours.
  • A majority of locals are totally opposed to the project. Save This Beach has a petition with more than 1,200 signatures and confirmation of opposition by more than 300 locals, representing around 90% of residents.
  • From an environmental perspective, this SAC area is important and sensitive. Natura 2000 areas are protected under the EU Habitats Directive. And yet, to date, all shellfish applications have been deemed not to require an EIA. (Source: Review of Aquaculture Licensing Process, 5.2).  This allows the Minister to push the application through without regard for these areas.
  • The recent Review of Aquaculture Processes indicates that if an EIA is required, an additional 25 to 52 weeks is added to the timeframe to the license application process, which is backlogged. In fact, one of the Review’s recommendations was to extend the licenses from 10 years to 20 years. There is no justification for this figure, other than presumably clearing backlogs and making it easier for the Department to process applications. This would presumably clear the backlog and provide more resources to the Appeal Board, which, too is struggling to keep up with appeals. It appears to Save This Beach that the mandate of the Review is weighted to determine how to improve and speed up the licensing process. Save This Beach wishes to put this figure in context: 20 years is an entire generation – should an aquaculture license be granted for this long without any further monitoring of the impact on the SAC area?


Public consultation process background

  • Save This Beach is concerned about the lack of consultation that’s been involved from the start in this process. Illegal oyster trestles were placed in the Caragh Estuary, and this was recorded in photographic evidence. Save This Beach put pressure on aquaculture department and BIM to remove trestles. The trestles were removed in Nov 2016, but department refused to release further information to public.
  • BIM refused to acknowledge how many applications they passed on to the government, or for which areas. The notices both in 2015 and this most recent were placed during or just after the holidays, in a Garda station (Killorglin, not Glenbeigh)  that services but is not in the area where the oyster farms are being applied for, and the notices for public consultations have passed in one local paper only. BIM had made a commitment to inform our group and locals when the applications would be approved by the Minister before they came out in the paper, but this never happened.
  • There is an inherent issue with the so-called ‘consultation process’. The Review of Aquaculture Processes also noted that “a common theme in the submissions received during the public consultation process was inadequate public notification of applications.” Save This Beach can’t agree more. There are several objections the group has about the public consultation process.

    1. It’s not really a consultation. It occurs AFTER the Minister has already approved the application.
    2. It’s undemocratic and weighted against citizens and the appeal process. In effect, it puts the onus on local ordinary residents to challenge the government on the soundness of placing oyster farms on SAC sites, without requiring an EIA, and without providing the public with a national strategy of aquaculture licensing in a particular area and on a national level for all SACs. While applicants for licenses have a wealth of information and support for their applications from developing agencies like BIM, ordinary locals have no such supports: no information on what constitutes a good appeal, or any access to services that will help formulate appeals, or even a clear understanding of the licensing or appeals process. This much was also confirmed by the Review, calling the process “opaque” and that it took “considerable effort and time to gain an understanding of how the licensing process was carried out.”
    3. In addition to prohibitive costs to appeal, there is a very strict deadline to adhere to: a mere 4 weeks. This hardly leaves time for communities, groups, organisations, or individuals to put together documents to substantiate their appeal, especially when scientific evidence is required.
    4. The notification process, as the Review acknowledged, is faulty and isn’t in keeping with modern life. Notifications are to be placed in Garda stations or a local newspaper. As we all know in rural Ireland, the nearest Garda station may be a good distance away (in this case, Killorglin). There is no incentive to willy-nilly walk into a Garda station that’s not in one’s own town just to check if somehow an application has appeared. There is often a choice of local papers; does a citizen have to buy all papers every day to make sure that a notice isn’t missed? Why is an email alert system not set up on the DAFM website? Even the most resource-strapped retailer can send email or text alerts. We question why this system hasn’t been adopted by DAFM.


Area history & context

  • Traditionally, cockles have been picked in the area for centuries, as there is a large cockle bed in this area.
  • There is a local family-run business, Glenbeigh Shellfish, that has operated for 20 years, picking cockles and mussels on a small and discrete scale.
  • Caragh Clams applied and won an oyster license for 16 hectares in 2015 at Kilnabrack, Glenbeigh. Caragh Clams Inc., a Cromane-based company applied to renew their clams license in 2013 to extend their operations for another 10 years. Their application was appealed by Friends of Irish Environment, Coastwatch, and An Taisce. The appeal was unsuccessful at a national level, but when brought to the EU Commission, Caragh Clams were told to cease their clam operation due to environmental impact. However, in 2015, with the help of BIM, they applied to change their license to oyster farming. Locals failed to spot the application, and by the time they did, the  4 weeks of ‘consultation process’ had passed. Some locals contacted the Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine, to appeal but were told that nothing could done.
  • With regards to the current oyster farming, as Coastwatch can confirm, live C. gigas oysters were discarded on site in 2017, in direct opposition to regulation. Access to the sites by heavy trucks, vans, and tractors is through one-lane roads, constituting a clear danger to walkers, who must get off the road and into the bushes when they pass. The effect on the heritage value of the area has also been noted, with photographic evidence of the wreckage left behind, visible from the local shoreline. Save This Beach also has photographic evidence of heavy machinery being used on the mudflats and cockle beds.
  • In light of these current applications, the ALAB report importantly recommended that should the operations expand in future, that there should be a FULL environmental assessment and a CUMULATIVE assessment of all aquaculture operations in Castlemaine Harbour SAC and SPA. These studies have not been made. In fact, the Minister has decided to waive the requirement for an environmental impact assessment.  


Danger posed by Pacific Oysters (Crassostrea gigas)*


“C. gigas is a universal ecosystem transformer and the Pacific oyster is expected to take over in the mudflats, both as an ecosystem engineer generating extensive solid calcareous rocks and as a competitive suspension feeder”


  • Displacement of native species by competing for food and space
  • Benthic-pelagic interactions and likely food web modifications
  • Habitat change
  • Formation of dense reefs in intertidal zone (loss of mudflats and natural mussel beds) and affects substrate, which would affect cockles. Loss of mudflats will reduce feeding sites for fish, birds, and other organisms.
  • Hybridization with local oyster species
  • Danger to human health on a swimming beach: Pacific oysters pose a direct threat to human safety because of their propensity to cut feet and shoes with their sharp shells. In The Netherlands they nowadays interfere with the recreational use of the Oosterschelde estuary (Wolff and Reise 2002).
  • Continued importation of Pacific oyster seed creates a potential risk for introduction of other alien species and diseases.
  • There are many occasions where Pacific oyster have entered and established in new areas outside its original range as a result of man’s activities. Their removal would involve the destruction of the osyters, and this would result in environmental degradation, including other species
  • The Pacific oyster can also spread by natural means. “The spread of the Pacific oyster in the Wadden Sea follows the classic pattern of biological invasions with along phase of stagnancy followed by a fast increase.”
  • Transfer of parasites, serious diseases and pest species (Oyster herpesvirus [(OsHV-1 µvar] has caused exceptional mortality rates in France in 2008 and 2009; this disease has spread through major oyster-growing areas in France (and parts of Ireland already). Source:


*Source: European Network on Invasive Alien Species (NOBANIS)