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Fishermen vote to accept Shell offer

Friday, August 8, 2008

Fishermen vote to accept Shell offer

LORNA SIGGINS, Marine CorrespondentNORTH MAYO fishermen have voted to drop their demand for Shell EP Ireland to relocate a discharge pipe for the Corrib gas refinery.

Some 30 members of the Erris Inshore Fishermen’s Association (EIFA) have been offered compensation for dropping their opposition during the laying of the offshore pipeline this season.

The fishermen have been given less than 48 hours by Shell EP Ireland to accept the offer. The deadline is noon today.

The deal will clear the way for the Solitaire, described as the world’s largest deepwater pipelaying ship, to begin work on the offshore section.

This is expected to begin within a week, in advance of An Bord Pleanála’s approval for the modified onshore pipeline route.

“This is the best deal we could get after seven years. We were between a rock and a hard place,” EIFA chairman Eddie Diver said.

“We were never against the gas project, but against the methods being used, which would harm the marine environment.”

A legal agreement drawn up by Shell would be studied by the association’s legal advisers, he added.

However, the owner of a shellfish company, Pat O’Donnell, one of a minority group against the deal, has questioned the authority of a private company to put pressure on him to leave publicly owned, licensed fishing grounds.

“I believe the health of the marine environment for future generations is more important than short-term compensation,” Mr O’Donnell said.

EIFA members, who have been in negotiation with Shell since late June, have been told that the Corrib gas partners won’t discharge “treated produced water” from unrefined gas through the outfall pipe 12km (7 miles) offshore.

Shell says this is a “goodwill gesture”.

The outfall pipe will still discharge contaminated water and local drainage from the area at the refinery, the association has been told.

EIFA unsuccessfully opposed an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emissions licence for the discharge pipe, due to fears about the long-term impact.

The association subsequently appealed to four Government departments for assistance but received no response.

It was then invited to negotiate by Shell in late June as the company was anxious to proceed with plans for the offshore project.

EIFA proposed an alternative location for the discharge pipe 19km (12 miles) west of Eagle Island in Co Mayo, but this has now been dropped.

The compensation offered by Shell amounts to €15,000 for registered and licensed vessel owners who do “not normally fish in the prescribed pipeline corridor”, and up to €30,000 for owners who can demonstrate that they have fished regularly on the route.

Shell, in its letter to fishermen, said that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and “international experts” had “confirmed that the treated produced water will cause no harm to the marine environment”.

© 2008 The Irish Times

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