GR Direct - Sony - Save up to £300 on selected Bravia OLED & LED TVs
Tuesday 28 May 2024
 11.2°C   S Gentle Breeze
Ocean Kinetics - The Engineering Experts

Brexit / ‘Why is the fishing industry having to fight their own government for survival?’

Questions emerge over the UK’s ability to police its own waters as Alistair Carmichael leads fishing debate in parliament

AS ANGER over the flawed Brexit deal grows in fishing communities up and down the country it appears that far from ‘taking back control’, the UK has no powers to police its own waters.

The fishing industry is seeking urgent clarification from government in the light of growing evidence that local vessels are being prevented from fishing traditional grounds by foreign owned and crewed fishing vessels.

The issue was raised by Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael during a fishing debate in parliament on Tuesday morning.

The Orkney and Shetland MP told UK fishing minister Victoria Prentis that he had urged her to give powers to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) to police the waters out to the 200-mile limit at the time the post Brexit fisheries bill was passing through parliament last autumn.

Last month, local fisherman Ross David Robertson shared a video how he and his crew on board the Mizpah were confronted by the longliner Genesis FD19 while fishing to the northwest of Unst.

It appears that following Brexit, and in particular the way the trade deal was agreed in great hurry by Christmas Eve last year, the UK has not taken power over its own waters out to the 200-mile limit.

Carmichael said: “All we get, whether from ministers or government agencies, is excuses for inaction.

“In the meantime the problem only seems to get worse. We have to ask – and I shall be asking – if it will take a boat going to the bottom of the sea before those responsible in government will take notice and take action.”

The executive officer of the Shetland Fishermen’s Association Simon Collins added: “It would clearly be unacceptable for the UK to be unable to act in its own waters against vessels operating recklessly and with danger to life, and we do not believe that other coastal states would be powerless to act in similar circumstances in their own waters.

Become a supporter of Shetland News


“If it turns out that the MCA lacks the powers it needs to ensure orderly operations at sea, then clearly that has to be fixed as a matter of urgency.”

Asked to clarify the MCA powers, a spokesman for the government agency told Shetland News: “The MCA has powers to enforce regulations on vessels which are registered in the UK wherever they may be in the world.

“These same powers extend to foreign registered vessels whilst they are within territorial seas [the 12-mile limit], with the exception of environmental regulations which apply up to 200 miles (the Exclusive Economic Zone).

“These requirements come from the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and are transcribed into UK legislation. Other government departments have powers to apply their regulations up to 200 miles.”

Isles MP Alistair Carmichael: ‘We have to ask if it will take a boat going to the bottom of the sea before those responsible in government will take notice and take action.’ Photo: Shetland News

During the fisheries debate, the Northern Isles MP spoke up for the industry which had responded in great numbers to his call for evidence.

Carmichael said: “The deal struck by the Prime Minister on Christmas Eve is not what they were promised and six months in to its first year it is causing massive problems.

“One Shetland skipper spoke for many when he wrote [to the MP]: ‘I run a small wooden 22 metre trawler around Shetland, we have a ridiculously small cod quota and we find it impossible to avoid cod, there is more cod around Shetland right now than anytime in living memory but our quota is minuscule.

‘It has been said by skippers recently that you can catch your years quota in one day! There are also plans to cut the cod further in 2022, so it begs the question why are we still using the broken quota system the EU put in place now that we are an independent coastal state?’”

Meanwhile, Magnus, a 19-year-old fisherman from Whalsay asked: “Why is the fishing industry having to fight their own government for survival?

“Why do their advisory boards have no qualified fishermen or ex fishermen or fish processors advising them? Why are they allowing uncontrolled fishing by foreign vessels in our waters?”

Become a supporter of Shetland News

Shetland News is asking its many readers to consider start paying for their dose of the latest local news delivered straight to their PC, tablet or mobile phone.

Journalism comes at a price and because that price is not being paid in today’s rapidly changing media world, most publishers - national and local - struggle financially despite very healthy audience figures.

Most online publishers have started charging for access to their websites, others have chosen a different route. Shetland News currently has  over 600 supporters  who are all making small voluntary financial contributions. All funds go towards covering our cost and improving the service further.

Your contribution will ensure Shetland News can: -

  • Bring you the headlines as they happen;
  • Stay editorially independent;
  • Give a voice to the community;
  • Grow site traffic further;
  • Research and publish more in-depth news, including more Shetland Lives features.

If you appreciate what we do and feel strongly about impartial local journalism, then please become a supporter of Shetland News by either making a single payment or monthly subscription.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.



Subscribe to a selection of different newsletters from Shetland News, varying from breaking news delivered on the minute, to a weekly round-up of the opinion posts. All delivered straight to your inbox.

Daily Briefing Newsletter Weekly Highlights Newsletter Opinion Newsletter Life in Shetland Newsletter

JavaScript Required

We're sorry, but Shetland News isn't fully functional without JavaScript enabled.
Head over to the help page for instructions on how to enable JavaScript on your browser.

Your Privacy

We use cookies on our site to improve your experience.
By using our service, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy.

Browser is out-of-date

Shetland News isn't fully functional with this version of .
Head over to the help page for instructions on updating your browser for more security, improved speed and the best overall experience on this site.

Interested in Notifications?

Get notifications from Shetland News for important and breaking news.
You can unsubscribe at any time.

Become a supporter of Shetland News

We're committed to ensuring everyone has equitable access to impartial, open and quality local journalism that benefits all residents.

By supporting Shetland News, you play a vital role in ensuring we remain a pivotal resource in supporting the community.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.