Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has challenged the government to accept an amendment to the Fisheries Bill and close the legal “gap” in safety at sea. In June a Shetland boat, the Alison Kay, was harassed by a Spanish vessel, the Pesorsa Dos, which attempted to cripple the Alison Kay’s propeller. Despite representations by Alistair Carmichael and the Shetland Fisherman’s Association to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the MCA was unable to take action as it has no jurisdiction outside of the 12-mile limit.
Speaking ahead of the Fisheries Bill debate, Mr Carmichael said:
“We have to close this gap in safety at sea and my amendment is a starting point for that change. The actions of the Pesorsa Dos this past summer were nothing new but if this sort of incident continues to happen, sooner or later a boat is going to be sunk and lives will be lost. The coastguard or police should be given the powers to stop this unsafe behaviour.
“At the time of the incident the Maritime and Coastguard Agency shrugged their shoulders and said there was nothing they could do as it happened outside the twelve-mile limit. They are not wrong – that is the current state of the law. If we are serious about managing our fisheries then it is time to end these unsafe practices.”
“Incidents like the one faced by the Alison Kay happen because those responsible believe that they can get away with it. If the government takes this problem seriously and accepts my amendment then we may be able to change that perception.”
Simon Collins, Executive Officer of the Shetland Fisherman’s Association, said:
“Following years of intimidation and intentionally dangerous practices on the part of a number of visiting fishing vessels operating around Shetland, Alistair Carmichael's proposed amendment is very welcome to the local fishing fleet. It is high time that the UK authorities have the means to enforce maritime safety throughout our waters and thereby enable our vessels to go about their legitimate business peacefully and safely.”