County Donegal: Row erupts over oyster farm at beach beauty spot
An oyster farm at a renowned beauty spot in the Republic of Ireland is facing opposition from residents and beachgoers who say it is an eyesore.
Craughnagee oyster farm has been given a 10-year licence for 42 acres of beds at Linsfort beach in County Donegal.
But almost 3,000 people have signed a petition against the Inishowen farm.
Derek Diver, the company's director, said it is legal, employs 15 people, and he disputes claims it is doing harm to the environment.
The beach is near Buncrana and just off the Wild Atlantic Way, the tourist trail on the west coast of Ireland.
Metal cages used by the farm run along the water's edge, and have been described by some people as unsightly and dangerous.
Campaigners also claim this type of oyster farming is bad for the eco-system in the area.
Residents have said the beach has been ruined by the farm.
"This was a lovely, quiet, delicious beach to walk on, and all of a sudden up pops these tractors dragging tonnes of metal rods across the sand and putting them in the surf," said Bridgeen Clafferty.
Another resident, Sharon Porter, said: "This coastline is one of our hidden gems. It's an area of outstanding natural beauty.
"What type of message does this send out? It's saying that we don't appreciate and respect what we have."
Some opponents had claimed the licence for the farm was granted without proper public consultation.
But the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine in the Republic of Ireland said there had been a full public consultation period, with notifications and plans appearing in a newspaper and in police stations in the area.
It added that members of the public also had the opportunity to appeal the decision.
There are 13,000 bags of oysters spread across the beach.
But Mr Diver said he is farming a sterile breed of oyster that poses no threat to the local species on Lough Swilly.
"It's actually a triploid oyster that we grow here and it doesn't reproduce," he said.
"So it will cause no harm to the native oyster, it won't overtake them.
"This project is only getting up and running, so we're hoping that it's going to create more employment in the near future."
Preparations will get underway to ship the current batch of oysters to mainland Europe in the coming months.