Mayo fishermen halt co-operation with Shell


NORTH MAYO fishermen say there has been a “serious breakdown in trust” between them and Shell EP Ireland over the handling of marine survey work on the Corrib gas offshore pipeline.

More than 40 fishermen, who had accepted compensation as part of a three-year-old legal agreement with Shell, have withdrawn all co-operation with the company, following recent damage to gear.

The fishermen have referred the situation to their legal representatives and say they will not facilitate any marine work which the Corrib gas lead developer and its contractors wish to carry out, pending a resolution of the situation.

The row arose when gear belonging to Eamon Dixon, secretary of Iascairí Chois Chósta Iorrais Teo, formerly the Erris Inshore Fishermen’s Association, was damaged during survey work on the offshore pipeline.

The offshore pipeline linking the wellhead 83km off the Mayo coast to a landfall at Glengad was completed in 2009 by the world’s largest pipelaying vessel, the Solitaire. Work on the final section of the onshore pipeline is under way.

The offshore laying was facilitated by Erris fishermen, who were awarded compensation for lost fishing time of between €15,000 and €30,000 – but who had previously fought to ensure that “treated produced water” from unrefined gas would be discharged out at the well head and not 12km from shore as originally planned.

Four members of the association – fishermen Pat O’Donnell, two of his brothers and his son Jonathan – did not sign the agreement and declined offers of compensation from Shell.

Shell has confirmed that during a recent six-day survey of the pipeline, using a single vessel, a “single string of fishing gear became entangled with the survey equipment and was cut free”.

It said that the vessel’s owner was notified and “any damage to gear” had “yet to be assessed”.

Shell said marine notices had been issued ahead of the survey works, which involved an environmental management plan for the Department of Energy. It said company officials were willing to meet fishermen’s representatives this week.

However, Mr Dixon said the company had been asked to meet the fishermen as a group and he and his representatives would be insisting on this.

Mr Dixon said the fishermen had offered to move gear out of the way last March if notice of survey work was given, but the company had not agreed to this. Gear had been damaged five times to date, he said.

“It is very hard to see how we can trust the company at this point,” Mr Dixon said.