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Fishermen seek State help in Shell Corrib pipeline row

Irish Times

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Fishermen seek State help in row

LORNA SIGGINS, Marine CorrespondentA MAYO crab fisherman and his son, who have maintained a vigil at sea for the past four days, have called for State protection to ensure their gear is not removed by Shell contractors.

Pat O’Donnell, skipper of the 10-metre (36ft) John Michelle , and his son Jonathan, skipper of the James Collins , have refused to remove up to 800 crab pots in Broadhaven Bay, where Shell EP Ireland is preparing to lay the Corrib gas offshore pipeline.

Shell EP Ireland said last week that it would move the gear temporarily to a “safer location” if the O’Donnells and several other fishermen did not lift the gear themselves.

The company has plans to deploy the world’s largest pipelaying ship, Solitaire , to work in Broadhaven Bay if weather permits later this week. However, while Shell holds a foreshore licence, the O’Donnells hold fishing licences, and the fishermen’s solicitor says that the company has no legal authority to remove fishing gear.

The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries says that such a matter between licence-holders is one to be resolved between both parties – in court, if necessary.

The O’Donnells did not support an agreement signed between Shell and the Erris Inshore Fishermen’s Association, offering compensation in return for co-operation in moving gear to facilitate offshore pipelaying works.

The two fishermen maintain that the Corrib gas refinery’s outfall pipe will have a negative environmental impact on their fishing grounds.

McGarr Solicitors, representing the O’Donnells, says its clients have been put under pressure at sea by Shell contractors, and say that the Garda Water Unit failed to come to Jonathan O’Donnell’s assistance when requested late last week.

Supt John Gilligan of Belmullet Garda station says he has received complaints from both Pat O’Donnell and from Shell contractors and is investigating both complaints.

© 2008 The Irish Times

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