Minister condemns 'shocking' incident where French-registered vessel 'tried to sabotage' Scottish fishing trawler
Videos posted on social media this week allegedly show the French-registered Antonio Maria on collision course with the Shetland-based trawler Defiant while both boats were fishing in the proximity of Shetland.
Mark Spencer described the footage in the Commons as "truly shocking" after Lib Dem MP Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) brought it to his attention and urged him to take action.
The environment minister said he would raise the matter with his ministerial colleagues "given the seriousness of the event".
Speaking during environment questions, Mr Carmichael said: "I wonder if the minister has seen the video footage that's doing the rounds of the incident involving the Spanish longliner, the Antonio Maria, trying to ram the Shetland, whitefish boat Defiant recently, putting out a rope, in fact, to foul its propeller. The footage is truly shocking.
"But the real scandal is that this is not the first time it has happened. It is at least the third incident that has been documented in recent times. It's going to keep happening unless something is done to stop it.
"So, will he speak to his colleagues in the Department for Transport and the Foreign Office to make sure that France as the flag state that does have enforcement powers in this case takes its responsibility seriously?"
Mr Spencer replied: "I have seen that footage. It is truly shocking. It was a deliberate act to try and sabotage the vessel of a UK fishing boat. I think it was outrageous behaviour.
"As he identifies, it is difficult to enforce because it is a Spanish boat under a French flag, but I will most certainly raise it with my ministerial colleagues given the seriousness of the event."
The owners of the French vessel, in a statement to the BBC, said their actions were aimed at safeguarding their equipment.
They also stated the skipper had attempted to communicate with the Defiant, requesting a change of course, but when no response was received, they chose to navigate "in parallel" with the trawler to protect their fishing longline.
While acknowledging the proximity of the two vessels, they confirmed the Antonio Maria altered its course to avert a potential collision.
They did not provide a response regarding the allegation of an attempted entanglement of the trawler's propeller.
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