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Marine / Fishing minister brands Antonio Maria incident ‘truly shocking’ – but MCA will not investigate

THE UK fishing minister has condemned a recent incident involving a local whitefish trawler and a French registered longliner off Shetland as “truly shocking” and “outrageous”.

Mark Spencer was speaking in the Commons on Thursday morning in response to a parliamentary question by isles MP Alistair Carmichael.

It comes after the French registered, Spanish owned Antonio Maria was alleged to have behaved in an aggressive and dangerous manner against the whitefish trawler Defiant, 18 miles to the east of Unst, on Monday morning.

Meanwhile, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) confirmed that no investigation into the incident has commenced.

Video clips shot by the crew of the Defiant shows the French vessel coming dangerously close to the trawler and then steaming right across her bow.

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

The crew of the Antonio Maria also put a rope into the water to allegedly foul the other vessel’s propeller.

In a statement on behalf of the Antonio Maria her actions were described as defensive and were carried out in order to protect her gear.

The minister confirmed that he had watched the footage, and described it as shocking.

“It was a deliberate act to try and sabotage a UK fishing boat, it was outrageous behaviour,” Spencer, the Conservative MP for Sherwood, said.

“As he [Carmichael] identified it is difficult to enforce because this is a Spanish boat under a French flag, but I will most certainly raise it with my ministerial colleagues given the seriousness of the event.”

Referring to previous similar incidents in the waters around Shetland, Carmichael said the real scandal is that nothing had been done about this any earlier.

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Meanwhile, the MCA finally issued a statement on the incident, three days after being first approached for comment.

The statement reads: “The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) is committed to maritime safety and will investigate any breaches that could potentially put lives at risk – if deemed necessary we will raise safety concerns with the relevant flag state of vessels when appropriate.

“As an agency, we regulate UK and foreign flag vessels within the 12 nautical mile territorial limit as defined in international law – however the MCA does not have jurisdiction over foreign flagged vessels outside of this area.”

It added that the MCA will “formally engage to raise concerns when appropriate to the flag state, but that only happens at the conclusion of any investigation”.

“In this case, no investigation has commenced by the MCA beyond initial fact finding which is normal procedure.”

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