Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael has secured a meeting with Defra secretary of state George Eustice to discuss the ongoing issues with foreign gill-netters around Shetland, following a number of recorded incidents of aggressive behaviour by the predominantly Spanish-owned boats.
Mr Carmichael previously proposed an amendment to the Fisheries Act 2020 to improve safety at sea after a high-profile incident when the Spanish vessel Pesorsa Dos appeared to attempt to foul the propellor of local boat Alison Kay LK 57.
Speaking in parliament, he 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, 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 Honourable 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, Alistair 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 gill-netting.
“The behaviour of gill-netters 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.”