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‘Morally wrong’: Call for ban on Russian trawler access to waters off Scotland

Russian trawlers have open access to the North Sea near Scotland.
Russian trawlers have open access to the North Sea near Scotland.

Russian fishing vessels still have open access to shared waters near Scotland despite calls for a ban over fears it’s fueling Vladimir Putin’s “barbaric war regime”.

We can reveal Conservatives will push for a change of policy when the loophole is raised in talks with the prime minister of the Faroe Islands on Wednesday.

Scottish Tory MP David Duguid claimed it is “morally wrong” to allow access to the shared waters with the UK and suggested island leaders are “turning a blind eye”.

The SNP Government at Holyrood is also “deeply troubled” at the continued use of shared waters.

However, fishing leaders said they had warned UK and Scottish governments that Faroe would keep doing business with the Kremlin weeks ago.

Deal struck

The UK Government signed a major agreement worth £5.5 million with the Faroes in February allowing both nations to fish in an area of each country’s waters.

Putin then launched an invasion of Ukraine, prompting the West to introduce harsh sanctions on Russia.

The Faroese government has so far refused to cut ties with Putin’s regime with blue whiting fishing still permitted.

By contrast, Russian boats are not allowed to fish anywhere off the coast of Britain.

The Faroe Islands lies north west of Shetland and has shared waters with the UK.

North-east MP David Duguid said: “It’s morally wrong that the Faroe Islands should continue to allow Russian vessels access to this area – considering the sanctions being placed on Putin’s regime by the UK and her allies.

“This is why I will be asking the Prime Minister of the Faroe Islands how he can justify continuing such ties with Russia.

‘Barbaric war regime’

“No country should be fuelling Putin’s barbaric war regime which is why the UK Government will not license any Russian-flagged vessels to fish anywhere in UK waters and the Faroes should do the same.”

Mr Duguid will meet the islands’ PM in London on Wednesday.

David Duguid MP

A Scottish fisherman’s group said they warned both the Scottish and UK Governments that the Faroes would continue to deal with Russia when the agreement was first signed.

Ian Gatt, chief of the SPFA, slammed the Faroese government for continuing to do business with the Kremlin.

He said: “The association had pre-warned both the UK and Scottish governments that it was likely that Faroe Islands would grant licences to the Russian fleet to fish blue whiting in the “special area”.

‘Deplorable action’

“The Russian fleet is being fully serviced by the Faroe Islands. The proceeds of this fishery will further fuel the war effort by the Kremlin.

“This is a deplorable action by Faroe Islands to continue this relationship with Russia while we watch the atrocities in Ukraine.

“It’s imperative that the UK now revisits its fishery relationship with Faroe Islands.”

The Scottish Government is deeply troubled that Russian vessels are fishing in an area which forms part of UK/Scottish waters.

– Scottish Government minister Mairi Gougeon

The fishing cooperation agreement was hailed by both SNP and Tory politicians when it was signed two months ago.

Reacting to the new call for a ban, Scottish rural affairs secretary Mairi Gougeon said: “We do not condone or support the continuation of any activities which will deliver economic benefit to the Russian Federation at a time when their unlawful invasion of a sovereign state continues to pose such a threat to the global order.”

The waters are being monitored, she said, adding: “While I fully recognise the Faroese Government has the right to license third country vessels to fish in the Special Area, The Scottish Government is deeply troubled that Russian vessels are fishing in an area which forms part of UK/Scottish waters.”

Boundary agreement

The Faroese government said it was committed to cooperating with the UK to “adopt measures aimed at compelling Russia to withdraw its armed forces from Ukraine”.

It said: “The Government of the Faroe Islands condemns Russia in the strongest terms for the war it has inflicted on Ukraine. The Faroe Islands are committed to adopting and enforcing sanctions against Russia that are similar to those of our neighboring countries, although there may be some distinctions.

“Upon the conclusion of the maritime and continental shelf boundary agreement in 1999 between the Faroe Islands and the United Kingdom, a Special Area was established within which both Parties may exercise separate fisheries jurisdiction. This means that the discretionary rights of the Faroe Islands and the United Kingdom to establish fisheries management measures in areas under their respective national jurisdictions also extend to the Special Area.

“Russia and the Faroe Islands have for more than 40 years concluded annual fisheries cooperation agreements. The fisheries agreement between the Faroe Islands and Russia applicable for 2022, which was concluded in November 2021, would not allow the Faroe Islands to restrict access of Russian vessels to the Special Area.

“The Faroe Islands are committed to cooperating with the United Kingdom and other neighboring countries to adopt measures aimed at compelling Russia to withdraw its armed forces from Ukraine. While there may be areas where the measures implemented by the Faroe Islands and the United Kingdom are not identical, there is clear agreement on why they are necessary.”

The Danish ministry of foreign affairs, which acts for the island nation, was also contacted for comment.

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