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Marine / Government says it has no powers following safety at sea incident off Shetland

A SCOTTISH Government marine protection vessel has been sent to an area to the east of Unst to gather information in relation to a safety at sea incident that happened on Monday morning.

The crew of the Shetland whitefish trawler Defiant reported a close encounter with the longliner Antonio Maria.

A video clip of the incident shows how the French vessel steams dangerously close past the Defiant and also tries to foul the trawler’s propellor.

Fishing crew furious after yet another incident involving a foreign owned vessel

Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has warned that lives may be lost unless the government in Edinburgh and London take incidents like these seriously.

The MP has over the years repeatedly raised the issue in parliament of dangerous and intolerable behaviour by foreign owned vessels against local fishermen.

However, Marine Scotland says it has no powers to board vessels to investigate or take enforcement action on alleged breaches of safety at sea regulations.

A spokesperson for the agency said on Monday afternoon: “The safety of fishers is of paramount importance and we take any allegations of behaviour that risks the lives of fishers, and the safety of vessels, very seriously.

“Whilst safety at sea for UK vessels is a reserved issue, we have already been in direct contact with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and the Joint Maritime Security Centre to share intelligence on this incident.

“We understand that the MCA will be raising this matter with the relevant French authorities.

“We are not aware of any fishery related offence having been shown to have taken place. However, we have dispatched a Marine Protection Vessel to the area to gather further information.”

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Carmichael however said he is surprised how the Irish government is able to intervene more directly when the UK Government claims it is unable to do so.

“How many more incidents of this sort is it going to take before someone in government takes this seriously? Sooner or later someone is going to be badly injured or even killed,” he said.

“Ireland has always been able to deal with this sort of recklessness. Why is it that UK authorities seem to find it so difficult?”

“A strategy of hoping that this is going to get better on its own has obviously failed and needs to change.”

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency has been contacted for comment.

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