Following the reports of the Irish, Danish and Dutch decommissioning schemes, further details have emerged of the French scheme, which has already seen a number of fishing vessels dismantled ashore.

The announcement that the 45m trawler Jean Claude Coulon II, purpose- built in 2005 for the West of Scotland fishery, is to be scrapped has surprised some observers. The vessel is seen here tied up in Lochinver, which has in effect been its home port throughout this time. (Photo: Darren Green)

Although the tonnage to be scrapped in France is just 3% of the country’s total, the benefits to the UK fleet, particularly to the west of Scotland, could be considerable.

To be eligible for grants under the scheme, the vessels must have demonstrated a reliance on fishing in UK waters. The majority of applicants were expected to be from operators in the Channel and Celtic Sea, and a number of the early applicants from these fisheries have already been scrapped in Bordeaux.

However, the major Lorient operator Scapeche, which operates a fleet of state of the art vessels out of Lochinver, has confirmed that it plans to reduce its fleet size by one-third, having taking advantage of the EU and French government-backed scheme.

Scapeche, a subsidiary of Mosquetaires Group, the French conglomerate which also owns the Intermarche supermarket chain, is well known in Scotland in particular, having operated on the west coast for decades.

The company intends to scrap seven of its 22-strong fleet at the EU-approved decommissioning facility in Brest, where vessels are scrapped to meet stringent environmental standards.

A number of vessels fishing in the Celtic Sea have already been scrapped under the scheme, including the Brittany-based trawler L’Ecume des Jours.

These will include the Lochinver-based Heliotrope, a former trawler converted to longlining, and perhaps most unexpectedly, the 2005-built 45m Lochinver stalwart Jean Claude Coulon II, which fished its entire life west of Scotland with its sisterships Mariette Le Roch II and Jack Abry II. The ill-fated Jack Abry was lost after being wrecked on the Isle of Rum in 2011. These vessels were built to replacing ageing predecessors which had fished from Lochinver for decades beforehand.

A total of 90 vessels are expected to be scrapped in total. What has raised eyebrows is that these appear to include considerable catching power, and will remove a significant amount of fishing effort from UK waters. The Scapeche vessels alone were thought to be consigning around 12,000t a year of prime whitefish to the L’Orient auction.

Landings into Lochinver have already seen a major decline in recent years. Marine Scotland statistics show that the value of Lochinver landings has dropped from £29.5m in 2017 to £13.1m in 2021, and that values dropped by over 25% between 2020 and 2021 alone.

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 £3.30 here

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