Reported fishing boat incursion into NTZ under investigation

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The owner of a fishing boat which was spotted in the Lamlash No Take Zone (NTZ) with its net out has defended his actions by saying that he was sorting his equipment.

The sighting of the prawn trawler on Monday March 4 at 6.30am prompted marine coastal conservation charity Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST) to appeal for any witnesses to the incident to report it to it and to enforcer Marine Scotland with any photographic or video evidence.

Concerned that the reporting of the unverified activity can damage the reputation of fishermen, Elaine MacIlleBhàin, of the Clyde Fishermen’s Association, who was speaking before the vessel was identified, said: ‘We would like to make it clear that we do not support unauthorised fishing in NTZs or MPAs.’

Shortly thereafter, Garry Mackinnon identified himself on a social media as the owner of the fishing vessel, Auriga, explaining: ‘When we left our anchor we put a bag in the water to fix some chain in the middle. Our other net was on the drum as we twin trawl, so feel free to get my AST to prove we were doing seven knots leaving the north entrance with one of our bags streaming behind us. Very sorry about this.’

The AST is the vessel monitoring system that tracks and keeps a log of location and other data related to the activity of the vessel. Speed can be included in these logs and can indicate whether fishing is taking place as prawn trawlers usually travel at two or three knots, higher speeds can suggest normal travel.

Ms MacIlleBhàin continued: ‘Not actually a Clyde Fishermen’s Association boat, but glad it’s been established that it was not an incursion in terms of fishing.

‘As we noted, we remain happy to help wherever we can on such issues, but we have a concern that such claims can negatively impact on the perception of all local sustainable fishermen. This can be particularly damaging and in this case it seems to be unfounded.

‘Let’s work together on these issues and be respectful with each other’s reputations. After all, we are all neighbours.’

A spokesman from COAST responded by saying: ‘Despite the opinion to the contrary COAST would like to reiterate that the incident is still under investigation by Marine Scotland, the witnesses have not yet been interviewed and no final conclusions have been drawn.

‘This incident is now under investigation by Marine Scotland Compliance who took it very seriously and responded very quickly. The witnesses who made their reports to Marine Scotland and to COAST will now be interviewed by Compliance officers.’

In 2017, the captain of a Norwegian minesweeper apologised after dropping his anchor on the sensitive seabed floor of the No Take Zone. While not illegal to anchor in the zone, a maritime tradition of respect for the area means that larger vessels avoid it as an anchorage.

Marine Scotland has limited resources to monitor inshore waters and COAST provides a useful guide to identify and accurately record possible infractions and how to report them.

The guide is known as the KIPPER Guide and can be found online at www.arrancoast.com/kipper-guide/