MUSSEL fishermen in Cromane say they have been vindicated by a High Court judgement this week in which they were awarded €400,000 in damages.
Mr Justice MIchael Hanna's judgement in the case sees the State being ordered to pay €400,000 in damages to two fishing firms arising from a ban on mussel seed fishing in Castlemaine Harbour.
Cromane Seafoods Ltd was awarded €125,000 in damages with €275,000 awarded to O'Sullivan McCarthy Mussel Development Ltd; firms involved in mussel fishing in the harbour since 1979.
The companies took the action against the Minister for Agriculture and the State arising from a ban on mussel fishing in the harbour and other areas that was introduced in 2008. The ban saw the harbour closed to mussel fishermen for several months in 2008. The companies complained it was too late in the season for mussel seed fishing when the ban was lifted and a similar complaint arose in 2010.
Danny O'Sullivan of Cromane Seafoods told The Kerryman the entire fishing community of Cromane felt vindicated by the judgement. "I'm happy with the judgement. I'm happy that it is all over. It has taken five years to get to this point. We as a fishing community have been vindicated by this judgement," he said.
The firms were represented in the High Court by Paddy Whelahan of Tralee-based Philip O'Sullivan and Company Solicitors.
It was stated in court that predators such as green crab and starfish had consumed the mussels by the time the beds were opened to fishermen in 2008, leaving them without stock for 'ongrowing'. This happened again in 2010. It also emerged that the firms had spent more than €1 million on new boats and equipment prior to the loss of the mussel seed in 2008.