THE CREW of a Shetland-registered whitefish trawler is calling on Marine Scotland to act after yet another dangerous encounter with a foreign owned longliner fishing in local waters.
Engineer on board the Defiant, Tom Jamieson, said the French-registered Antonio Maria steamed dangerously close past his vessel shortly after they had shot their gear, circling the local boat and also trying to foul her propeller.
The incident happened after Defiant skipper Magnus Polson had established via VHF radio that the position of the Antonio Maria’s lines was clear of where he intended to work
Fifteen minutes later the Antonio Maria altered onto a collision course and within five minutes had come dangerously close to the port side of the Defiant.
Two crewmen appeared on the French vessel’s stern, and one of them threw a rope into the sea.
Jamieson shot a series of videoclips of the incident, which happened this morning (Monday) at around 7.50am, about 18 miles east of Unst.
It is not the first time local fishermen recorded incidents where French and Spanish registered boats working in the seas around Shetland have been filmed acting in what appears to be an aggressive way towards Shetland registered trawlers.
For years, Shetland fishermen have been complaining that they are being forced out of their traditional grounds by a fleet of foreign owned gill netters.
These vessels are fishing legally in Scottish waters, even after the UK left the European Union and with it the Common Fisheries Policy.
Scottish and UK authorities have always maintained that they have no powers to interfere and investigate as jurisdiction outside the 12-mile zone sites with the flag state.
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Jamieson said: “We had not long shot our net when he [Antonio Maria] kept circling us and cutting very close across our bow. Then he got a rope thrown over his side to tow in front of us trying to foul our propeller.
“Very dangerous, could have ended badly for both boats,” Jamieson told Shetland News.
“We had to haul our gear and steam away after the incident. Too dangerous to be around,” Jamieson added.
Shetland Fishermen’s Association executive officer Sheila Keith said: “This is yet another shocking incident. It is unacceptable that local crews legitimately and responsibly going about their work end up in fear of their lives due to the actively aggressive behaviour of those on board another vessel.
“The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) urgently needs not only to investigate but to act decisively to ensure this kind of behaviour does not occur again. Otherwise we are going to end up with fatalities at sea.”
Keith also called for the MCA to establish a hotline for the reporting of such incidents.
“There needs to be a streamlined system so that information about these types of incident can be properly directed and swiftly dealt with.”
Both the SFA and the Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association have been fighting for many years to get government to clamp down on gill netters and longliners due to their dangerous behaviour and the dumping of masses of plastic mesh used as nets.
Marine Scotland has been contacted for comment.
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