Fishermen lose out as oil giant Shell delays survey on gasfields off Whitby and Scarborough

Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell has postponed a seismic survey on two gasfields off the North Yorkshire coast, disappointing fishermen who were in line for tens of thousands of pounds of compensation.

Fishermen, mainly from Scarborough and Bridlington, had been offered compensation for moving their pots Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

The energy firm had been looking to conduct the 3D survey on the Resolution - first discovered in 1966 - and Endeavour gasfields in the first quarter of this year, but said it needed more time to "conclude agreements with commercial and other stakeholders in the area".

The survey only has a tight window, as the RSPB have advised carrying out the surveys any later will affect seabirds returning to their clifftop roosts to breed.

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Around 60 fishermen, from Scarborough and Whitby mainly, had been involved in negotiations with Shell about removing their crabpots, which would otherwise get caught up in the 2km-long cables dragged by the survey ship.

Jason Harrison who fishes out of Scarborough, one of over 50 fishermen offered compensation to move their pots Picture: Johnathan Gawthorpe

Shellfisherman Jason Harrison, who fishes out of Scarborough, said he had been offered £76,000 to take his pots out, but had only taken out 20 per cent, around 400 pots.

However he said around half a dozen others had jumped the gun and cleared their gear from the area.

He said he’d been since offered a £17,000 goodwill donation, but would have his December earnings deducted, which he wasn’t happy about.

He said: “There were quite a few fishermen who thought they were going to be quids in and were treating themselves to new pot frames and ropes and now it’s fallen through.

From April to August the Bempton Cliffs, which are also home to the largest kittiwake colony in mainland Britain, come alive with nest-building adults and young chicks Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

"They’d moved the gear early because of winter conditions and to satisfy Shell in clearing the area.”

Extinction Rebellion Scarborough have campaigned against the development, claiming “world-famous views” off the coast will be spoilt by the sight of gas rigs just off shore, and wildlife will be harmed in the process of exploring and exploiting the gasfields.

On Facebook they said: “Perhaps the most compelling reason is that Scarborough is in its final century as a seaside resort. The burning of fossil fuels is heating the planet to the extent the ice caps are melting and the seas are rising.”

Shell claims seismic surveys are a “low impact” method to gather information about the geology under the seabed, using an acoustic signal that is generated on the ship and picked up by sensors towed behind the vessel as the signal bounces back off the rocks.

Shell, which has a 70 per cent interest in the exploration licences, and is the operator, denies claims by the group that fracking would be used.

If they decide to go ahead following a future survey - now likely to be in 2022 - gas would eventually come ashore at Teeside where it would be used to power homes and businesses and also to generate electricity.

Shell said: “Globally Shell has set itself an ambition to become a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050 or sooner.

“But gas will remain a necessary part of the UK’s energy mix for many years to come. Security of supply is critical for the UK, and Shell will play its part in providing this, while helping to drive forward the energy transition.

With seabirds showing worrying signs of decline, the RSPB said they had not been prepared to allow “wiggle room” over when the survey will take place.

In the run up to nesting seabirds gather in floating “rafts” away from the coast, feeding and getting into best physical shape to breed.

If they get disturbed too much it can lead to them abandoning their nests, most of which are at Bempton, the UK’s largest mainland seabird colony.

The RSPB’s senior conservation officer for Yorkshire Daniel Wynn said they were happy for the survey to be carried out in February, and have it finished by March, as originally planned, when the rafting season begins.