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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 April, 2004, 12:15 GMT 13:15 UK
Russians in illegal fishing row
Scots fisherman spotted Russian trawlers off the coast of Rockall
Scots fisherman claim Russian trawlers have been illegally fishing a protected area of the North Atlantic Ocean.

The Scottish White Fish Producers Association (SWFPA) accused authorities of failing to crack down on the ships operating off the island of Rockall.

The Scottish Executive said it had no evidence of any illegal fishing.

But the SWFPA said 13, 50-metre stern trawlers were observed fishing for blue whiting and haddock in the area 300 miles off the coast of Scotland.

'Hoovering up'

The North East Atlantic Fishery Commission decided to impose a closed area in the Rockall fishery following a plea by Scottish fishermen in 2001.

By last year, most of the Scottish Rockall fleet had been decommissioned or sold on to other countries.

SWFPA vice-chairman Ian Gatt said the government's apparent inaction showed it was more intent on destroying the Scottish white fishing fleet than saving the fish.

He said: "Scottish fishermen observe the fish around the closed box to be too small for landing for human consumption.

"Presumably then the Russians are hoovering up the immature haddock in an industrial fishery."

He explained how St Kilda was now being used as the Western-most baseline instead of Rockall, leaving the Rockall Bank divided in two with the outer side falling into international waters.

Fishing 'disaster'

Mr Gatt said: "The political process of redrawing the boundary without consulting the fishing industry has resulted in a disaster for the Rockall haddock and the Scottish fleet.

"The Scottish white fish producers will be asking the UK Government to return the Western Limit to its original line as soon as possible so the Rockall Fishery is returned to management in a sustainable manner."

An executive spokesman said it took all allegations of illegal fishing seriously and monitoring of the fishery was carried out for 21 days between May and September, as well as occasional additional patrols.

He also urged anyone with evidence of illegal fishing to report their findings to the Scottish Fishery Protection Agency (SFPA).

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