Row developing over fishing grounds

Trawler skippers are calling for separation zones between local boats and UK-registered Spanish gill netters that are competing for the same fishing grounds north and west of Shetland.

Relations between the local fleet and the encroaching flagships are said to be increasingly fraught, with trawler skippers complaining they are being driven off their own grounds by the large Spanish-owned netters that set miles of gill net on the seabed north and west of Shetland.

The situation is getting worse with the Spaniards, who used to fish deeper waters further out than the trawlers would operate, now taking over “vast swathes” of prime monkfish grounds. One skipper reckoned that millions of pounds worth of landings were being lost to the local fleet as they are ousted from their traditional grounds.

The netters, which, at 34m-40m long, are larger than the local white fish boats, operate from ports in north and west of Scotland, seldom if ever call into Shetland. They can set as much as 35 miles of net per vessel and have recently begun to extend their normal summer operations for longer and longer periods of the year, skippers say.

Although the nets are hauled every few days, they are understood to be left set for longer periods if the vessel has to return to a Scottish port.

Yesterday, five netters were operating north west of Flugga or west of Foula. One, the Tahume (UL 666), had effectively “ruled off” an area more than half the size of Unst with its nets only about 10 miles west of Flugga.

A Marine Scotland move to get both sets of vessels to sign a code of conduct fell apart last year when according to Shetland Fishermen’s Association executive officer Simon Collins the flagships pulled out at the last minute. The SFA and the Scottish White Fish Producers Organisation were to have been the signatories from the Scottish end.

The deal would have seen a seasonal exclusion of the gill netters from waters shallower than 200m. It was apparently rejected by the flagships as it would have applied to Scottish vessels only and not bind the many different nationalities that trawl the area. Mr Collins has called for the government to step in and get the parties around the table again given the increasing seriousness of the situation.

He said: “There’s no law-breaking going on as such, they have a right to fish there, but their gear takes up a colossal amount of space and our boats can involuntarily trawl over it, which makes a bad day for both vessels.”

Skipper of the Allison Kay James Anderson called for separation zones between the static gear and trawlers, similar to that imposed in Faroese waters to avoid conflict between the sectors.
He said: “They have completely bombed out the west side and the Pobie Bank, but the biggest problem is at Flugga. It’s a proper disaster.

“This has been a problem for a while and I think it is getting worse. It goes back to the cuts that were made to the fleet after 2000 when there was a fairly big fleet of boats fishing off the west side of Shetland. A lot of these boats were decommissioned and the fleet is now a lot smaller.

“We used to see them [the flagships] in deeper water and they did not bother us. The last few years they have come in where we fish and they are taking an awful lot of fish as well.”

Mr Anderson said that in the past the sheer number of trawlers would have made it very difficult for the netters to operate on the same grounds, but now the tables had turned. “Historically, it’s always been trawled by wis.”

Twin-rig trawlers were being squeezed out and were now having to encroach on other grounds that were traditionally used by seine-netters.

He said that the large flagships were “very intimidating if you come near their nets”. In one incident, a netter had come to within a few feet of the Allison Kay when the skipper thought the trawler was endangering his nets.

“This would never happen in Spain if we went down there and started mucking up their ships.”
Communication is another problem with many of the Spaniards having poor English and, the Shetland fishermen claim, deliberately failing to understand.

Gary Masson, chief executive of the Northern Fish Producers Organisation, which administers quota for one of the flagships, Magan D, said that the problem cut both ways and that the netters would, of course, fish where they got the best catch.

From his own days as a trawlerman, he could recall static nets being trawled over both deliberately and unintentionally.

He said that he had been aware of incidents and one skipper had complained that his gear had been towed away. He had raised this with the SFA but had never received a reply. He also said that the netters only operate seasonally “from May to July”.

According to Mr Masson, communication is the key to avoiding future conflict. “The problem is communi­cation and the channels of communication have been set in stone for a long time. If the skippers do not communicate with each other there is nothing much we can do about it.”

He added that a restriction on fish­ing deep waters, based on a “flawed” scientific report, was heaping additional pressure on the netters, as they were being deprived of their traditional grounds.

Skipper of the Defiant Gordon Irvine said that the Spaniards were squaring off whole areas of inshore grounds and the local boats “just had to bide clear.”

He added: “This has been going on for years and we are just gradually being shoved off our own grounds. They have ruined it all.”

Mr Irvine said that the Tahume had just “ruled off a great piece of bottom” that trawlers would be trying to catch ling or pollack on the hard ground.

He added that the local fleet did not have the clout to get the French and the other nations involved in an international deal, but that the Scottish fisheries department must have the power to sort out a territorial dispute between two sets of UK flagged vessels.

Mr Irvine said: “The chances of wis doing this in Spain are non-existent – you cannot even begin to imagine it. If we tried what they are getting away with, we’d be run to the bottom.”

Mr Irvine claimed that the fishery cruisers left the flagships well alone and were much more likely to harass local fishing boat.


Add Your Comment
  • John Tulloch

    • June 15th, 2015 11:46

    From above: “Skipper of the Allison Kay James Anderson called for separation zones between the static gear and trawlers, similar to that imposed in Faroese waters to avoid conflict between the sectors.
    He said: “They have completely bombed out the west side and the Pobie Bank, but the biggest problem is at Flugga. It’s a proper disaster.”

    If Shetland had similar constitutional status as Faroe enjoys this wouldn’t be a problem. I expect that’s why their fishing industry is several times the size of Shetlamd’s?

    • Steven Jarmson

      • June 15th, 2015 20:42

      Utterly agree.
      We would have a larger fishing fleet too.
      Then then when the oil runs out we still have an economy!!

  • iantinkler

    • June 15th, 2015 12:24

    Wake up Shetlanders, Time once and for all to say enough is enough.
    31/12/2008 , by Shetland Times, in Public Affairs
    THE UK Cabinet discussed giving assurances to Shetland that devolution would not affect the isles’ oil fund or rate support grant in 1978 after MP Jo Grimond and councillors demanded an opt-out if islanders voted against home rule in the 1979 referendum, it emerged this week.
    In papers released by the National Archives at Kew, it was revealed the then Scottish Secretary Bruce Millan was confronted with demands for a “Faroese” solution whereby Shetland would have home rule subject to Westminster, not Edinburgh.

    • Robin Stevenson

      • June 15th, 2015 15:31

      Hmm…Bruce Millan [Labour Scottish Secretary] 1976-79 was confronted with demands for a “Faroese” solution….So how did that go for you Ian? How did, being looked after by your Westminster buddies work for you then?… You DID vote against home-rule in the 1979 referendum, so did they lavish you with all their promises?

      • Ali Inkster

        • June 15th, 2015 19:40

        Wrobin we DID vote against Scoti devolution, but then again so DID the Scoti. So I guess there was no need to hive us off from the rest of you.

      • Steven Jarmson

        • June 15th, 2015 20:49

        Robin, have you ever been to Shetland?
        Mostly we’ve been left alone by everyone to get on with our own affairs.
        We’ve got our oil fund, we have a decent level of public services, we were being given our Housing Debt interest payments, we were relatively ok, then Devolution came along, it was fine for a few years, still being left to our own devices, but over the last 7 or so years we’ve had our housing debt money stolen, we’ve been getting massively under-funded by the Scottish Government, which they admit but won’t compensate us for, we’ve been forced to count independent Trusts into our councils budgets.
        The Scottish Government have robbed up blind.
        The only reason we never got “Faroese” style government was because the SNP voted WITH the Tories to bring down the Labour of the late 70’s and thus the SNP thrust the UK into the hands of the Tories.
        The SNP are nothing more than Tartan Tories, they know cost of everything and the value of nothing.
        I have more respect for the Tories than the SNP.

      • James Watt

        • June 15th, 2015 21:05

        Ali, the Scoti DIDN’T vote against devolution in 79, Scotland voted yes by 52-48 %. But I’m sure a man of your considerable knowledge doesn’t need me to tell you that.

      • Robin Stevenson

        • June 15th, 2015 21:26

        Actually the “Scoti” didn’t vote against devolution in 1979 we were “Conned” out of devolution thanks to the Labour party who decided to invent the 40% rule. This was where our fair and just Westminster Government decided to included those people that didn’t bother to vote or were dead.

        Voter turnout was 63.72%, Yes – 1,230,937, No – 1,153,502, 51.62% voted Yes and 48.38% voted No.

        It’s a bit like me inventing the “Apathy party” where I get all the votes by “default” from those people that didn’t bother to vote or who weren’t even alive. Which would have meant [according to the above rules] No party would have won a general election for decades and I’d have been the opposition party for the last 30 years without bothering to lift a finger.

        So it wasn’t just you that were duped Ian, that’s your UK gov for you.

      • John Tulloch

        • June 16th, 2015 7:52

        It’s clear then, we’re all agreed – neither Westminster nor Holyrood is good for Shetland. Shetland needs to be autonomous, like Faroe.

      • Ali Inkster

        • June 16th, 2015 12:02

        Wrobin in 79 if you were against devolution all you had to do on referendum day was stay away from the polls, this was known from the start so no con involved. Always cheated never defeated eh we will have to start calling you Wrobin Hoop at this rate.

      • Robin Stevenson

        • June 16th, 2015 19:06

        John, even the Faroes need a wee hand now and again, the question is, choose your poison? Which, of the two would you stand a better chance of further autonomy?

        Personally, I’d love to see each and every council far more autonomous, but there are “trust” issues that have to be dealt with first [especially in certain Renfrewshire/Glasgow councils] However, the more responsible and accountable each Council is, the better [imo]

        There is also the matter of poorer areas having to be helped by wealthier areas, there is no point in me building a wall round my safe little wealthy haven, when beyond the walls lie those that are struggling.
        Like the Faroe Isles, when things are going good and fishing is on the up then great, but who do they turn to when things aren’t quite so good? Who’s still giving them 6% of their annual budget even while things are fine?

    • Steven Jarmson

      • June 16th, 2015 10:34

      The 40% rule was put in to ensure that people actually wanted devolution.
      I personally think to gain independence 55% of all registered voters should have to vote to become independent. That would give a clear majority and wouldn’t mean that potentially the majority would be dragged out of something they want.
      I would also call on Sturgeon to introduce a double guarantee, that every area should have vote in favour of independence along side the majority overall.
      That way no one gets dragged kicking and screaming out of the UK. Its similar to her stance on the EU.

      • Robin Stevenson

        • June 16th, 2015 16:03

        Steven, give me one example of where 100% of those entitled to vote in the UK voted? IF you didn’t vote you obviously didn’t care one way or the other and therefore governments are created by those that care enough to vote. To pretend that we’ll count the No voters and the dead is absurd, as it was in 1979.

        Our recently elected Tory government received 37% of those that bothered to vote, IF we take into account that only 66% across the UK voted, what should we do with the other 34% that didn’t?…Should they count?
        IF you insist they DO count then we have a Tory Government elected by less than 25% of the UK electorate?

        The logic of counting NO voters in 1979 and counting NO voters now is as stupid then as it is now.

        You can only count votes that “Actually” voted. NOT those that are registered.

      • Steven Jarmson

        • June 16th, 2015 17:07

        You’re arguing two completely different points.
        What Im saying, and you know it, is, if Scotland was become independent that 55% of the electorate should have to vote for it. That doesn’t require 100% of them to turn out. Really only needs 55% turn out.
        This way, a clear majority of all voters has made their voice heard and it is fair to separate the country, even I’ll admit that. But if only 40% turn out and the vote is won by 1%, then only around 20.5% of people have voted to leave. That shouldn’t count as a mandate.
        Sturgeon is also calling for the EU referendum to have the double lock attached to it. Therefore it makes sense that she will enforce a similar double lock in any independence referendum of the future. 2018 would be my guess, then again in 2020.
        In an election, people who don’t vote have no say, no right to moan.
        They have basically said they’re happy with what everyone else thinks.
        It’s very different.
        A referendum requires a true proper majority whilst an election only requires a majority of those who actually vote.
        I’m never sure if it should be a legal requirement to vote? There is the democratic right NOT to vote to think about. But as I said, if people dint vote they have no right to complain.

      • Robin Stevenson

        • June 16th, 2015 18:35

        Steven, as you point out yourself, ” people who don’t vote have no say, no right to moan”. I concur.
        However, should this not be the case for both General Elections AND Referendums? Why should there be one law for one and another for the other?

        We have a Tory Government chosen by 37% of those that bothered to vote [or 25%] of the UK’s entire electorate, is this a mandate that “should” count? Where 75% didn’t want a Tory Government? and yet, here we are.

        In Scotland we have 1 Tory MP and 56 SNP MPs and yet we’re governed by a Tory Government that Scotland voted 15% of our electorate for and the other 85% didn’t.

        This is our democracy Steven and it goes right back to what you said at the start with regards to your vote “Use it or lose it”.

        I’m afraid I can’t agree with your distinction between a GE or a Referendum, a votes a vote and IF you choose to opt out [for whatever reason] You must accept the will of those that made the effort and “Actually” voted. I also find it difficult to agree with the “double lock” scenario, simply because, unlike the UK, Scotland is not made up of other Countries, it is made up of regions and it is those regions that are the makeup of what that Country is.
        For example, what would happen if Glasgow City Centre voted “No” and everywhere else in Scotland voted “Yes?

  • iantinkler

    • June 16th, 2015 6:43

    Robin Stevenson, yet another internet SNP troll shows the ugly side of “Nationalism”. Nice people you speak for. Now little mr. motor mouth from Glasgow, give your twisted opinion on this pillar of nationalism. Just another reason Shetland should get shot of the SNP garbage, once and for all!!
    Brian Smith as convenor of the SNP’s Skye and Lochalsh branch, SNP. Sent more than 130 messages to Mr Kennedy before and immediately after the recent vote.
    “We have a different target here though with the Quisling-in-Chief LibDem St Charles of Kennedy.” “”Drunken slob” and “quisling-in-chief”. How come these anonymous (@lobsterferret Twitter account) monsters all appear to be SNP?? There is a message there is there not .

    • Robin Stevenson

      • June 16th, 2015 16:45

      Ian, as I’ve said before, there are idiots on both sides of the fence, I don’t condone either. I agree that anyone found using this sort of unacceptable bile should be condemned, but let’s not pretend that it’s one sided and let’s remember our biased MSM will highlight “Only” the idiots on the SNP side. We don’t hear about the death threats towards Alex or Nicola, we don’t hear about the abuse on our “Dailies” forums, or how long it took for Labour to suspend the serial blogger Ian Smart [a former President of the Law Society] for his vile abuse?

      • Steven Jarmson

        • June 16th, 2015 18:40

        Yeah we do.
        Labour were lambasted for not kicking the guy put sooner.
        There was an arrest to do with Sturgeon.
        We hear these things.
        Perhaps its just that your precious”national” doesn’t cover these issues.
        You should really read a paper that employs journalists instead of wee Eck.

  • Ali Inkster

    • June 16th, 2015 10:34

    Actually Wrobin barely 1 in 3 scoti voted for devolution, But to mupets like you 33% and 45% are majorities.

    • Robin Stevenson

      • June 16th, 2015 16:17

      Ali, I know it’s not easy for you to get your head round, but you can only count votes by those that voted, those that didn’t vote [for whatever reason] cannot be included. Otherwise the 34% of those that didn’t vote in May would be in opposition, having beaten the Labour party. A ridiculous scenario I know, but that’s what you’re suggesting?

      • Ali Inkster

        • June 16th, 2015 19:17

        Wrobin where it was stated in the 79 referendum that at least 40% of the entire electorate had to vote for devolution for it to happen all that folks who did not want it had to do was not vote. The fact that so many bothered on a cold March day tells us just how opposed they were to Edinburgh having any control over Shetland and Orkney. And I can assure you even with the influx of soothmoothers in the intervening years that sentiment has not changed all that much.

  • Steven Jarmson

    • June 16th, 2015 17:15

    Robin, you’re clearly high up in the SNP.
    Could you ask the SNP people along at head office to reply to my email, from BEFORE the referendum asking for clarity around several issues.
    One is relevant to the story this comment sits below.
    I asked, would the SNP protect Scottish fishermen and our fishing industry if Scotland was accepted into the EU?
    The SNP made noise when Thatcher “sold out” Scotland fishermen back in the 80’s and they were still banging on about it until they changed from an anti-European party to a pro-European party.
    So, I’m assuming by pro-Europe, they would accept the complete loss of our fishing industry as a price worth paying to enter the hallowed club.

  • john irvine

    • June 16th, 2015 17:35

    Well Wrobin thank God for small mercies that Labour did invent the 40% rule or else Scotland would be now be destitute!

    • James Watt

      • June 17th, 2015 8:44

      Yeah, like when we voted for a devolved parliament in 97, Scotland was subject to levels of destitution never seen before, imagine how much worse it would have been had it happened in the middle of the North Sea oil boom in 79.

  • Steven Brown

    • June 16th, 2015 21:30

    Here we go again, 2 sensible comments on a very serious and potentially dangerous subject for Shetland fishermen and old Tinkle sets the Muppets up for another off subject “discussion”.
    I know we don’t have to read all the comments, but do we really need to be subjected to another ride on the magic roundabout again from the sad old surfers, come on editor, do a job and weed out some trash please !!

    • Robert Sim

      • June 17th, 2015 8:11

      You are right about the need for the Editor to moderate and delete posts which use language like: “Now little mr. motor mouth from Glasgow, give your twisted opinion…” and “…mupets like you…”. What is needed is a system by which readers can flag posts as unacceptable, such as some national papers use.


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