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Frustration over the amount of foreign vessels fishing in local waters

Fishermen leaders say they are powerless until the UK has left the CFP.

The Cornelis Vrolijk fishing off Burra on Friday afternoon. Photo: Kevin Learmonth

FISHERMEN have expressed their anger and frustration over the amount of foreign vessels fishing in local waters in recent weeks.

They are accusing French and Spanish boats of working together to close off the hake fishing grounds to the east of Shetland.

Meanwhile, the largest UK-based fishing vessel – the Dutch owned 114-metre Cornelis Vrolijk – was seen fishing to the west of Burra within the 12-miles zone on Friday.

Simon Collins of the Shetland Fishermen’s Association said that while none of these vessels were doing anything illegal, the examples served to highlight why UK fishermen were desperate to leave the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) sooner rather than later.

The fishing track of the Cornelis Vrolijk as seen on marinetraffic.com

“If they are not doing anything wrong then we have to bear it until we can organise our own fisheries as an independent coastal state,” he said.

“Until that happens we are really powerless, and is part of the reason why fishermen want to leave the CFP.”

Collins said foreign vessels fishing in Shetland waters was a regular occurrence, but due to the sheer numbers there was also the fear that some EU fishing vessels were trying to build a track record in UK waters in case that becomes part of the equation post-Brexit.

“We are making representations, but if these vessels conform with EU law then they are within their rights to be there. And that lends urgency to all the political argument behind becoming an independent coastal state as soon as possible,” he added.

The Dutch owned Cornelis Vrolijk has been fishing west of Scalloway for at least the last 24 hours.

The pelagic trawler and factory ship sails under a British flag, and is said to hold as much as 23 per cent of all UK fishing quota and usually lands its catch in the Dutch port of Ijmuiden.

Meanwhile, Gary Smith, the skipper of the Lerwick registered whitefish trawler Devotion told the local BBC station that Marine Scotland was not doing enough in policing the UK waters.

“We can’t get fish in our traditional grounds, the have blocked the whole thing off,” he said. “They are French, Spanish, and then there are some UK-registered flagship among them, but the flag is the only thing British about it.

“They are not doing anything illegal as such, but the powers to be seem to be happy enough to let it go on, and unchecked.”

A spokesperson for Marine Scotland said the agency was aware of the hake fishery to the east of Shetland and was closely monitoring it.