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Marine / Skipper describes how local boats are pushed out of fishing grounds

The newly-lengthened Alison Kay at Scalloway in April.The Lerwick registered whitefish trawler Alison Kay alongside Blacksness Pier in Scalloway. Photo: Shetland News

THE SKIPPER of a Shetland whitefish boat has described how a vast area to the west of Shetland has been “netted out” by Spanish gill-netters preventing local trawlers from fishing in their traditional fishing grounds.

James Anderson said the 27 metre long German-registered fishing boat Pesorsa Dos could have caused serious damage to the Alison Kay had she been successful in her alleged attempts of running a line through the Alison Kay’s propeller during an incident off the west coast of Shetland last week.

Video footage of the confrontation was widely shared by fishermen on social media and picked up by a number of news organisations.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency has been informed. Politicians and fishermen’s organisations have called for an investigation to be conducted.

Anderson said the ongoing conflict between Scottish trawlers and EU boats stemmed from the facts that the two fisheries – gill-netting and trawling – were “completely incompatible”.

The Pesorsa Dos came within metres of the Alison Kay during a confrontation last week.

He said the EU boats – the Germany registered Pesorsa Dos with a crew of 17 is mainly operating out of La Coruna in Spain – had moved in to the area effectively pushing out the local fleet.

“You used to see these boats further out, and they could not come in because we were fishing there with so many boats; but lately they have moved in, and this is the worst I have ever seen,” Anderson said.

“They now quite boldly tell us that we need to move, and when we tell them that we won’t move then we get things like what happened the other night.

“That area now is completely netted out, and it is layers of net, not just one curtain stopping fish coming in to the shallower waters. It completely covers an area from the 4-degree line, out from Foula and the complete westside of Shetland.”

Anderson said the fish taken is being landed at either Scrabster or Ullapool, loaded on to trucks and taken straight to Spain.

He said that fishing activity was hugely damaging for the local economy in Shetland, as over the years fish worth millions of pounds have been caught in the area and landed locally.

“We need to get out of the EU before we can start doing something about it,” he added. “It looks as though Brexit has made them really go for it so that they get a kind of a foothold.

“The boat we had difficulties with is flagged in Germany. How a Spanish boat registered in Germany can come here and take over the fishing grounds of Shetland beats me.

“Is not what would happen in Iceland or in Norway. Both countries are very protective of their fishing areas; they would never let this happen.”