Shetland Fishermen’s Association has warned skippers of the dangers of fishing near Total’s gas pipelines in Yell Sound while accusing the company of doing nothing to make the area safe.
Shellfish boats in particular have been urged to stay away amid serious concerns for vessel safety due to the amount of rock dumped on top of the MEG and service lines running adjacent to the main gas pipelines coming from the Laggan-Tormore field west of Shetland.
It follows a series of trials involving whitefish and shellfish boats which resulted in damage to gear.
The SFA has become frustrated at the lack of action from Total, which announced yesterday that gas is now flowing to the Shetland Gas Plant from the field 77 miles north west of the islands, after more than three years of discussions.
“The rock dumps on top of the pipelines reach up almost four metres, posing a major obstacle to boats that trawl or catch scallops in Yell Sound,” said SFA executive officer Simon Collins.
“On the basis of the trials that our boats carried out we felt it was necessary to caution skippers about the dangers.
“Meanwhile, our efforts to persuade Total to take action to create safe crossing points for vessels have really got nowhere.
“It’s time for Total to take seriously its own promises to the community and Shetland’s long-term prosperity.”
SFA chairman Leslie Tait: “A lot of our small scallop vessels fish this area, especially in winter, especially in bad weather, and the fear is that they pick up a lot of these boulders, ending up with top weight and stability problems.
“There also can be issues with hydraulics and blown motors of winches due to over-stressing.
“We were promised that this issue would be settled by creating areas where fishermen could cross the pipeline, but that hasn’t happened.”
Many inshore boats operate in Yell Sound because of the good quality fishing grounds.
Gary Leask, skipper of the 13m Kestrel, which has twice suffered gear damage in trials, including hydraulics, said: “We are concerned about snagging on the pipe and also the quantity of rock that is down there.
“For a smaller boat the weight of rock could lead to you capsize in the worst case scenario. It’s dangerous for the inshore fleet to be fishing over.”
Figures from the NAFC Marine Centre in Scalloway show that the MSC-accredited scallop fishery is worth around £1.9 million to the inshore fleet.