SWFPA Chief, Mike Park OBE has called on EU-registered fishing vessels operating under licence in UK waters to obey the regulations
Foreign fishing vessels operating in UK waters must adhere to the conditions prescribed in their licence says SWFPA Chief, Mike Park OBE.
The caution was issued to foreign boat owners after several incidents in recent weeks where EU registered fishing vessels have been noted infringing on the conditions of licences they have been granted to fish in UK waters post-Brexit under the terms of the temporary arrangements of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.
In incidents in mid-March and last week, Danish trawlers were accused of fishing multi-rig trawls of more than two nets in Scottish waters even though this has been illegal since 2007.
In another incident reported by the Scottish White Fish Association Chief, an Irish-registered trawler was spotted fishing between the six-and twelve-mile limit at Rockall over the Easter weekend, which Mr Park says is infringement on their UK licence.
Speaking to The Fishing Daily on the multi-rig issues he said, “I guess it can’t be helped the nephrops vessels are constructed with their multi-rig set-up, but it is obvious now that if they continue, they will be in breach of UK regulations relating to the prohibition of operating with more than two nets.
“We would be extremely disappointed in our Danish colleagues if that was the case and we would look to Marine Scotland compliance to make sure that they don’t carry on doing it.”
The use of the four-net multi-rig trawls have been touted as fuel efficient but most of all, the method is credited with reducing bycatch. These two elements combine because the height of the net is reduced, meaning that the net is concentrated more on the targeted catch, which in this case is nephrops. The Danish and many other nations promote the fishing method, but the Scottish industry believes that it causes boats to catch large hauls of prawns, leading to large amounts of discards due to high-grading.
Mr Park says that is not at issue here:
“The fact is, they are fishing against what is required under Scottish law. They are contravening Scottish and UK legislation whilst fishing in our waters, so irrespective of what they think about the selectivity characteristics of the gear, they are operating illegally.
“Most of them operate a mesh size between 80 and 89mm where most of our boats are operating gear between 100 and 119mm mesh.”
On the issue of Irish boats breaking regulations at Rockall over the weekend, Mr Park said,
“We are aware that there are Southern Irish vessels operating within the 12-mile limit at Rockall. Clearly this is in breach of the law as well, and they are basically conducting IUU (Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported) operations in terms of fishing.
“With the Brexit negotiations, there were certain areas where the EU vessels were allowed to fish between the six-and twelve-mile limit, but Rockall is not one of them.”
“If the situation remains the same, when we reach an agreement with the EU, we will be calling on the Scottish Government to lay down the rule of law just as we have to do in Norwegian waters and just as we have to do in Faroe waters.
“What we don’t want to see, it’s the same with our Danish colleagues, we don’t want to see fishermen falling foul of the law. We don’t want them being arrested and we don’t want them being fined. We just want them to apply the law as it stands.”
By Oliver McBride