Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has secured an offer of a meeting with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to discuss the ongoing issues around gillnetters near Shetland. Gillnetter boats, predominantly Spanish-run, have become notorious in the area for intensive fishing and aggressive behaviours towards other vessels. Mr Carmichael previously proposed an amendment to the Fisheries Act 2020 to improve safety at sea after a high-profile incident of a gillnetter, the Pesorsa Dos, appearing to attempt to foul the propellor of a local boat.
Speaking in the House, Mr Carmichael said:
“The fishing industry in Shetland is being hammered by Spanish boats engaging in the completely unsustainable practice of gill netting. I have spoken to the fishing Minister about this in the past. What is being done to stop it or to ensure that, if it is to be done, it is to be done safely?”
Responding, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, George Eustice said:
“We keep different gear types and fishing practices under constant review. Concerns are sometimes raised about gill netting; that can be a sustainable form of fishing in some inshore waters, but not in all cases. I would be willing to meet the right hon. Gentleman to discuss his particular concern, although in some areas it will be for Marine Scotland to make the technical decisions.”
Reacting after the exchange, Mr Carmichael said:
“I am glad that the Secretary of State has offered a meeting to discuss the local concerns around this harmful practice and that he has acknowledged the important distinction between inshore and other forms of gillnetting.
“The behaviour of gillnetters around Shetland is nothing new, and indeed I tabled an amendment to the Fisheries Act 2020 to try to tackle the serious safety concerns raised by such vessels, including the Pesorsa Dos – precisely because Marine Scotland does not have the remit to take on these issues. I was told then that the government was taking this matter seriously. This meeting should be an opportunity to see just how much progress has been made.”