Sinking of Fife vessel is latest in series of targeted attacks on North East coast

Questions are being asked of Marine Scotland, the Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency and the local police force by the Fife inshore industry after a vessel was deliberately sunk in Methil Yacht Club in the early hours of 28 July.

An intruder broke into the club and then drilled holes in the bottom of the boat, causing it to sink, in what was clearly a targeted attack.

The hooded intruder who was filmed on CCTV as he made his way to the boat and drilled holes in the hull is thought to be local ‘small fry’ in a much larger issue that has impacted the lobster industry in Fife, with the Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency, Marine Scotland and local police seemingly unable to work together to address it.

Shellfishermen from around the region have reported a surge in such crimes in the last year. They say that responsibility for tackling these incidents is falling between different agencies, and that they are largely being ignored as a result.

Ross Coventry of Methil, who owns and operates the 27ft potter Tina Louise KY 17, told FN that it was no coincidence that the attack came at the height of the season.

“This attack on the boat, which was recorded on CCTV, and took the criminal just three minutes from breaking into the club, is just the latest of a series of incidents targeting the boat, and my wife’s business, which is associated with it.

“I catch the lobsters, basically, and she has built up a business serving high-end restaurants in the region and down to Edinburgh, especially with our prime lobsters. This isn’t only the peak of our fishing year right now, but also the run-in to the Edinburgh Festival, and peak demand for my wife’s business.

“This attack comes on the back of targeted thefts from our keeps in the run-up to Christmas last year. And it’s not just us – a similar business just 200m away had £10,000 of lobsters stolen two weeks ago, and other vessels in the area have had gear and lobsters stolen as well.”

Tina Louise at sea. Although the boat works all year round, the incident happened at the height of the lobster season. Previous attacks have targeted the Christmas and summer busy periods, deliberately inflicting as much damage on local shellfish businesses as possible.

As FN went to press, Ross was still awaiting the salvage of the vessel, which will have sat on the harbour floor for a week by the time it is refloated.

“I can’t fault the insurer Sunderland Marine, who have been magnificent,” Ross said. I rang them at 8.01am after the incident, and they had a local rep in the harbour within an hour, doing everything he can to help.

“The issue is with sourcing the right salvage company to raise the vessel, before we work with Sunderland to decide how to get the boat back working again, and how to keep the business and fishery going in the short term.

“The boat’s fitted with a 130hp Perkins. It’s done quite a few hours, and it may make more sense to replace the engine than recover it – it will depend what we see when we finally get back onboard. But we may be putting out a call for a replacement engine if any FN readers have one of the right size and condition.

Tina and Ross Coventry with seven-year-old son Jamie and a touch tank they set up in his classroom with some of the catch and bycatch from the Tina Louise.

“This will have set us back years, after a lot of hard work by us both, building the business up. We’ve had offers of help to lift some of the pots we have on the ground from other vessels in the area, but there isn’t enough spare capacity to cover all our gear, so some may have to come ashore to keep it safe.”

Questions are being asked about markets for illegally caught lobsters in the North East, both stolen and undersized. A Newbiggin fisherman was convicted recently of retaining 179 lobsters below MLS (Fishing News, 20 July, ‘Serial offender fined for 179 undersize lobsters’). Persistent rumours about an organised network for illegal lobsters along the North East coast have been circulating within the industry for some time.

A Police Scotland spokesperson confirmed the force’s involvement, saying: “Around 7am on Friday we received a report that a boat had been damaged causing it to sink at Methil Dockyards, Harbour View, Methil.

“Enquiries are ongoing and anyone with any information is asked to contact 101 quoting reference 0569 of 28 July, 2023.”

Friends of the family have set up a crowdfunder to help to support them until they are able to fish again. The link can be found at:

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.50 here

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