Shetland skippers are calling for immediate and decisive action from the authorities after a French longliner attempted to run a rope through the propeller of a local boat early this morning.
The Defiant (LK 371) was fishing 18 miles east of Baltasound in Unst when the incident with the French-registered Antonio Maria occurred around 7.50am.
Having established via VHF radio that the position of the Antonio Maria’s lines was clear of where he intended to work, Defiant skipper Magnus Polson began towing.
Fifteen minutes later the Antonio Maria altered onto a collision course and within five minutes had come dangerously close to the port side of the Defiant. Two crewmen appeared on the French vessel’s stern, and one of them threw a rope into the sea.
Attempts by Mr Polson to contact the vessel were unsuccessful and “due to close proximity and the endangered safety of our boat I had no choice but to begin hauling back our gear to make room”.
A similar incident involving the Spanish-owned, German-registered gillnetter Pesorsa Dos and the Shetland whitefish boat Alison Kay happened 30 miles west of the islands in June 2020.
Shetland Fishermen’s Association executive officer Sheila Keith said: “This is yet another shocking incident. It is unacceptable that local crews legitimately and responsibly going about their work end up in fear of their lives due to the actively aggressive behaviour of those on board another vessel.
“The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) urgently needs not only to investigate but to act decisively to ensure this kind of behaviour does not occur again. Otherwise we are going to end up with fatalities at sea.”
Ms Keith also called for the MCA to establish a hotline for the reporting of such incidents.
“There needs to be a streamlined system so that information about these types of incident can be properly directed and swiftly dealt with.”
Both the SFA and the Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association have been fighting for many years to get government to clamp down on gillnetters and longliners due to their dangerous behaviour and the dumping of masses of plastic mesh used as nets.