A Shetland fishing boat has been arrested and ordered to return to port after a small section of her net, measured using a controversial new electronic device, was found by fisheries protection officers to have broken the rules on mesh sizes.
The Radiant Star sailed back to Scalloway on Monday morning after the irregularity was found during a routine inspection by officers from the Jura who boarded when she was eight miles off Burra at around 9am. Skipper Victor Laurenson said he had lost a day’s fishing and expected to face criminal charges.
The development will fuel the angry debate over the new tool, manufactured by Omega, which was introduced in September and replaced the traditional hand-held, wedge-shaped block. Fishermen had already voiced strong objections on the grounds that the machine underestimated mesh sizes.
Speaking after his return to Scalloway, Mr Laurenson said: “They’ve come out with a new measuring device. They used to have a bit of iron that they put in your mesh to measure the size of the mesh. But they have come out with a new battery-operated machine, and it’s measuring less than it should.
“They have taken the square mesh panel that is under the size. But instead of just cutting it out and letting us get on with it, they have mucked up our whole day, arrested us, taken us into Scalloway and now they are going to confiscate half our net.”
According to Mr Laurenson, during the inspection of the Radiant Star, which had set out at around 5am, officers found that a three-metre long section failed to comply with the legislation. They insisted that he return to harbour.
The skipper said he had only been able to fill 20 boxes before the officers came on board. “I don’t know what this will cost. We have to go and make a new net again, if we can get bits to try and get fishing the rest of the week,” he said.
“If they come with a new machine and it’s measuring less, what can the fishing industry do about it? “The [Shetland Fishermen’s] association is trying to go back to the old way of measuring. It’s a rule that has been passed by the [European] commission as far as we know.”