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Scottish fishers’ fury over suspect Danish trawling

Fishing skipper John Clark
Fishing skipper John Clark

Marine Scotland is investigating allegations of Danish vessels fishing with multi-rig gear in the area known as the Fladen grounds in the northern North Sea.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government agency, which has responsibility for managing Scotland’s seas and freshwater fisheries, as well as for enforcing fishing rules, said he was unable to comment on individual investigations.

But he confirmed inquiries were being made into the activities of one or more Danish boats in the Fladen grounds, a popular location for prawn fishers about 100 miles north-east of Aberdeen.

He added: “If anyone has any information regarding possible non-compliant activity they can report it via the web form or by calling 0131 271 9700.

14-year-old ban

Holyrood banned trawling with more than two nets in 2007, saying the practice was a potential threat to stocks due to the “sizeable increases in catch efficiency”.

The ban was reinforced by the Prohibition of Fishing with Multiple Trawls (Scotland) Order 2017.

But according to Macduff-based skipper John Clark, who owns and operates the Reliance II, the Scottish fleet has recently witnessed an influx of large “factory freezer” Danish boats using more than two trawls.

Mr Clark said: “Since the start of this year a fleet of Danish vessels have, we think, been flouting these rules and we asked Marine Scotland to start inspecting these vessels at sea to make sure they were following the same conservation rules as we follow.

“Last week, the FPV Hirta (fishery patrol vessel) started to inspect these Danish vessels.”

One of the Danish vessels suspected of using more than two trawls in Scottish waters<br />Submitted by John Clark

Mr Clark said he had since learned that two Danish vessels were boarded at sea, with their skippers cautioned and given fixed penalty notices for breaking the rules.

The Danish Fisheries Association has reportedly warned its members to familiarise themselves with “constantly changing” and “ambiguous” UK fishing regulations.

Scottish Fishermen’s Federation chief executive Elspeth Macdonald said: “Marine Scotland is responsible for fisheries control and enforcement in Scottish waters, and we expect that due process will be followed from any activity to monitor compliance.”

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