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1983: Danes raid British fishing grounds

A Danish trawler captain has been arrested for illegally entering British waters in the first confrontation of the current fish war.

In a gesture designed to challenge the legality of a ban on non-British boats from fishing in UK coastal waters, Euro MP and trawler owner Kent Kirk sailed his ship towards the British coast and put out his nets.

The move follows Denmark's refusal to agree to proposals for a new EEC fishing regime.

The Sand Kirk was north-east of Whitby, just two miles inside the new 12-mile limit, when a Royal Navy frigate HMS Dumbarton Castle arrived and escorted the trawler to North Shields.

There, Mr Kirk was summonsed to appear in court tomorrow.


"Individual people have some rights and we are fighting for these rights"

Kent Kirk, Danish ship owner

At North Shields, the Sand Kirk was greeted by hoards of photographers and journalists.

He told the BBC: "What we are trying to show is that individual people have some rights and we are fighting for these rights."

Mr Kirk is taking his case to the European Court of Justice to prove Britain's fishing regulations are illegal.

Twenty other Danish fishing trawlers were spotted by RAF Nimrods in the waters around Orkney and Shetland, but atrocious weather conditions made any fishing - legal or otherwise - impossible.

In Brussels, a meeting attended by foreign ministers from Denmark and West Germany failed to find a diplomatic solution.

Dietrich Genscher, the West German Foreign Minister and president of the EEC's Council of Ministers, said he was moderately confident of a successful outcome and urged restraint.

In Context
During the first three weeks of January 1983, European fishing laws were in a state of limbo and during this time the UK enforced the Sea Fish (Specified UK Waters - Prohibition of Fishing) Order 1982.

On January 23, the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) came into force giving equal access to fishing grounds to European countries, with quotas set by the Council of Ministers. So the British government had to lift the ban.

Some 18 months later, in July 1984, Kent Kirk won his case against the British government in the European Court of Justice.

The court ruled that EEC law did not allow the ban and that the 30,000 fine imposed on Mr Kirk by North Tyneside magistrates would have to be paid back.

The CFP was reviewed in 1993 and 2002 and further measures were introduced to try to conserve marine life. But according to Greenpeace, treaties designed to protect fish stocks have had little effect and most major stocks fished for human consumption in the North Sea are under threat.


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