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Guardian Unlimited: Shell’s nemesis and friend of fish win green awards

Hilary Osborne
7.15pm Monday April 23, 2007

An Irish farmer who was jailed for opposing Shell’s plans to build a gas pipeline on his land and an Icelandic businessman who saved north Atlantic salmon from the brink of extinction are among the winners of a top environmental honour.

Willie Corduff, from Rossport in Ireland, and Icelander Orri Vigfusson will be among six campaigners who will receive the Goldman Environmental prize at a ceremony at the San Francisco opera house this evening.

The winners of the award, which celebrates grassroots environmentalists around the world, will each receive $125,000 (£62,500) in recognition of their efforts. They have been selected by an international jury from nominations put forward by green groups and individuals.

Mr Corduff was among five men jailed for three months in 2005, for attempting to stop the oil giant Shell laying a high pressure gas pipeline under their land in County Mayo.

The men, who became known as the Rossport five, refused the company access to their land and spent 94 days in jail as a result.

The protests brought the campaigners to international attention and persuaded Shell to announce that it would reroute the pipeline.

The Icelandic winner, Orri Vigfusson, is credited by the jury for “preventing the seemingly inevitable decimation of wild north Atlantic salmon populations”.

Since 1989, Mr Vigfusson’s organisation, the North Atlantic Salmon Fund, has raised $35m to buy the netting rights from commercial fishermen, essentially paying them not to fish salmon in the north Atlantic.

The organisation has brokered multimillion dollar buyouts or moratorium agreements with commercial salmon fishers in the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Wales, England, Greenland, France and Norway, saving an estimated 5 million salmon in the process.

The other four winners of this year’s prizes have all been involved in efforts to protect animals and habitats in their native countries.

Sophia Rabliauskas from Canada is honoured for her campaign against destructive logging and hydropower development in the Canadian province of Manitoba; while Zambian environmentalist Hammerskjoeld Simwinga is honoured for restoring endangered wildlife in the North Luangwa Valley.

Tsetsegee Munkhbayar, from Mongolia, wins his award for working to shut down destructive mining operations along Mongolia’s scarce waterways; and the Peruvian, Julio Cusurichi Palacios, is honoured for securing a national reserve to protect rain forest ecosystems and the rights of indigenous peoples from the effects of logging and mining.

“This year’s prize recipients have succeeded in combating some of the most important environmental challenges we face today,” said the Goldman Prize’s founder, Richard N Goldman.

“Their commitment in the face of great personal risk inspires us all to think more critically about what ordinary people can do to make a difference.”

The prize, which is in its 18th year, was established by Mr Goldman – a philanthropist and civic leader in San Francisco – and his late wife Rhoda, and has so far been awarded to 119 people from 70 countries.

Among past winners is Wangari Maathai, the winner of the 2004 Nobel peace prize. She won the Goldman prize for Africa in 1991.

Eight other winners of the prize have been appointed or elected to national office in their countries, including several who became ministers of the environment.,,2063900,00.html

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