Ireland could be in breach of EU regulations on protecting water quality if coastal land is rezoned for development in the south Galway village of Clarinbridge.
The warning is from the Irish Shellfish Association (ISA), which has appealed for "common sense" to prevail among Galway county councillors, who meet to vote on Clarinbridge's local area plan next week.
Otherwise, the ISA believes Galway could lose its international reputation for oysters, as a €50 million local shellfish industry is put in jeopardy.
"Galway is already in the middle of an environmental crisis over drinking water quality, and we really don't want to lose Clarinbridge bay," Michael Egan, of the Clarinbridge Oyster Co-Op, has said.
ISA chief executive Richie Flynn says it fully supports the co-op's stance in seeking no further development in the area until a proper sewage treatment system is commissioned and installed. It also believes a permanent buffer zone on the eastern, northern and southern shores of the bay must be secured.
Clarinbridge oysters still maintain class A quality status, but if waters are polluted and oysters are relegated to grade B status, it would have an "immediate catastrophic effect" on the historic fishery - and on the annual oyster festival - both the ISA and co-op point out. The oyster co-op supplies top quality shellfish to France, and some of its less active members are seeking to return to coastal cultivation due to a slowdown in the construction industry, Mr Egan points out.
Galway county councillors are due to vote early next week on 17 material alterations to the Clarinbridge local area plan, and the Clarinbridge Community Development Association believes the net effect would be to zone an additional 115 acres of land over and above an undeveloped 93 acres already zoned in the draft plan.
© 2007 The Irish Times