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Marine / Discarded fishing gear motion approved by councillors

A discarded gill net hauled up by a local trawler and taken ashore for disposal.

A MOTION calling on Shetland Islands Council to make formal representation to the Scottish Government and the coastguard on the issue of discarded fishing gear in waters around the isles has won the support of elected members.

North Isles members Duncan Anderson and Alec Priest had their motion heard at a meeting of the full Shetland Islands Council on Wednesday.

It highlighted the problem of the “increasing level of marine pollution from discarded fishing gear, primarily of the type utilised by mainly French and Spanish owned long liners and gill netters which operate in the waters around Shetland”.

The motion added: “There have also been stories of aggressive behaviour and closing off vast areas of seabed.

“One of these alleged incidents was videoed and well publicised recently. The problem does not seem to be going away, even one of our own ferries, the MV Filla, has wound up in this gear in recent months.

“In a short time period, I was able to obtain many photos taken by local vessels of gear they have either trawled up or have been fouled with. Some of these are included with this agenda.

“With the condition of the marine environment being of paramount importance to Shetland, I would like to move that the Shetland Islands Council makes official representation to Marine Scotland, the MCA and the Scottish Government to address this growing problem.”

Councillor Andrea Manson suggested that KIMO, which is described as a “network of local governments, working together for healthy seas, cleaner beaches, and thriving coastal communities”, be copied into all correspondence too.

Lerwick member Amanda Hawick questioned if the problem was an issue for fishermen within six miles of land, with Priest saying he had heard of recreational boats catching fish off the tip of Unst with hooks in them from long liners.

North Mainland councillor Alastair Cooper also suggested nets could have tags on them identifying their source.

After Lerwick member John Fraser sought clarity on the focus of the motion, Anderson said the primary concerns were gear being left in the sea and the behaviour of vessels.