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Porpoises could prevent oil drilling plan

CAMPAIGNERS against oil drilling in Dublin Bay may have found an unlikely ally in the form of the harbour porpoise.

The plan has suffered a blow following proposals to designate the area as a special conservation zone.

Heritage Minister Jimmy Deenihan has proposed six new sites as marine special areas of conservation (SACs), including around Dalkey Island off Dublin Bay.

Providence Resources has already been granted a foreshore licence to drill an oil exploration well there.

But Mr Deenihan wants to protect the harbour porpoise by setting up an SAC from Rockabill -- about 6km off Skerries -- to Dalkey Island.

Providence says it had not been given advance notice of the plan.

Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht maps show the location of six proposed SACs.

It is thought the Rockabill zone overlaps with the location for Providence's exploration surveys.

There are more porpoises found here than anywhere else around the Irish coast.

Mr Deenihan proposed more than 27,000 hectares from Dalkey Island to Rockabill as a SAC -- one of six designations made under the EU habitats directive.

Among the others are the Blackwater bank off Co Wexford, the west Connacht coast and Hempton's turbot bank off north Donegal.

The Department of the Environment last month awarded a foreshore licence to Providence for drilling 6km from the Dalkey coast.

Defending its plans, Providence says 40pc of profits from the project would accrue to taxpayers.


It comes following revelations in the Herald that fishermen fear lobsters, crab and scallops could be frightened away from the Dalkey area if drilling goes ahead.

The Dun Laoghaire Fishermen's Association said the fishing will be hit by the development off the Dublin coast.

A Providence representative said the seismic survey is a vital investigation ahead of any drilling.

"Rigorous environmental and health and safety standards form a vital part of the company's ethos," he told the Herald.

The spokesman said that the company has met with a representative group of fishermen and will "shortly" be appointing a local fisheries liaison officer as part of the statutory consultation process necessary for the project.

"Liaison with local fisherman will be a key element of the pre-survey activity, however, at this stage, the surveying activity has yet to be scheduled," he said.