SHELL E&P Ireland has written to individual Erris fishermen stating that it will honour its “undertaking” in relation to minimising harmful emissions from the Corrib gas refinery into the marine environment.
However, the Erris Inshore Fishermen’s Association says it intends to seek a meeting with the Environmental Protection Agency, following advice given in talks with three Government Ministers and two junior ministers in Dublin on Friday.
The association’s unhappiness with the company’s delay in seeking to change the emission licensing terms was one of a series of issues raised with the Government delegation at Friday’s meeting.
Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan, Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Éamon Ó Cuív and Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries Brendan Smith, along with Minister for State for Natural Resources Conor Lenihan, attended the talks, which were facilitated by Minister of State for Enterprise, Trade and Employment and Mayo TD, Dara Calleary.
The Erris association initially sought the meeting after the arrest of two fishermen and impounding of their two vessels by gardaí hours before the arrival of the Corrib gas offshore pipelaying vessel, Solitaire, last month.
Association chairman Eddie Diver had expressed anger that the Government was not clarifying the legal situation concerning the rights of the two fishermen, Pat and Jonathon O’Donnell, to continue fishing versus the terms of the foreshore licence awarded to Shell EP Ireland.
The two fishermen did not sign up to an agreement involving €30,000 a head in compensation for association members while the pipelaying was taking place. Under existing legislation, valid fishing licence-holders cannot be compelled to leave the marine area.
Gardaí said they were enforcing a 500-metre exclusion zone after the fishermen were arrested, but the Department of Transport confirmed that it had issued no such exclusion zone. Shell had “advised” mariners to forego any activity within a 500-metre radius of the Solitaire “to avoid damage” to fishing equipment.
Mr Diver said the association was happy with the discussions with the Ministers, although they had “given no firm commitment”.
He added: “On the issue of the confiscation of fishing boats . . . we believe that Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey and Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern have to explain why such directions were given under the Maritime Safety Act.”