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Shell seeks accord with fishermen over Corrib

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Shell seeks accord with fishermen over Corrib

LORNA SIGGINS, Marine CorrespondentSHELL EP Ireland has confirmed that it is seeking a compromise with Mayo fishermen on a key offshore aspect of the Corrib gas project.

The company says it has been engaged in “confidential negotiations” with the Erris Inshore Fishermen’s Association on a “mutually acceptable alternative location” for the gas refinery’s outfall pipe.

The outfall or discharge pipe bearing treated chemical and metallic contaminants from the gas refinery has been licensed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

However, the Erris Inshore Fishermen’s Association objected to its proximity to the coastline and potential negative impact on the marine environment at the EPA oral hearing into the licensing.

Shell has confirmed that it held a “constructive” meeting with the association on this issue on June 26th, when possible relocation of the discharge pipe further out to sea was discussed.

In a subsequent submission to the multinational on July 4th, the fishermen’s association issued latitude-longitude co-ordinates for an area 12 miles west of Eagle island – at the edge of Irish territorial waters.

However, negotiations hit a serious obstacle a day later when the company informed fishermen it wanted co-operation from them during its separate offshore pipelaying work.

“We had not been informed in our meeting of June 26th that offshore pipelaying was so far advanced, and this will have a direct impact on our members who have gear laid on the route during the key fishing season,” its chairman, Eddie Diver said.

“Fishermen are already contending with many challenges, are licensed to fish in this area, and have a constitutional right to do so,” he said.

Mr Diver has written to the company, furnishing copies of his letter to four Government Ministers, stating that the fishermen’s co-operation would not be forthcoming until Shell “engages with us in a meaningful way, and affords us the respect that every citizen of our country is entitled to expect”.

A spokesman for Shell said yesterday that the company intended to begin laying both the offshore pipe linking the Mayo coast to the Corrib gas field in “mid-August”, and would also be laying the outfall pipe simultaneously. It would take part in a “multi-agency meeting” that would include the fishermen’s association tomorrow.

Shell to Sea spokeswoman Maura Harrington has called on Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan to halt the offshore pipelaying, describing it as “premature”. The company is still awaiting approval for its modified onshore pipeline route.

A spokeswoman for Mr Ryan said the company had necessary consents for the offshore section.

© 2008 The Irish Times

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