Guernsey

Trawlers blamed for wrecking Guernsey scallop industry

Scallops
Image caption Mr Hallam said the scallop grounds may never recover

Guernsey's scallop fisheries have been practically wiped out in a matter of weeks, local fishermen have claimed.

The scalloping grounds were highly lucrative for fishermen, yielding catches of £40-45,000 a year.

UK trawlers are netting tonnes of the prized shellfish every day, a move which Guernsey fishermen said has wrecked their livelihoods.

Frank Hallam, a scallop fisherman, said: "They have literally wiped out the stocks where I fish."

He said: "Probably five years' fishing gone in six weeks and there's nothing we can do about it because it's British water."

Mr Hallam, who has worked the seabed around Guernsey for most of his life, said one of these boats he had seen would have taken more scallops in a month than he would in a year and the grounds, six or seven miles off the coast, may never recover.

He said: "They argue they want to make a livelihood and a living, but they have ruined mine - I just wish they'd go back to where they came from."

A spokesperson for Sea Fisheries said there was concern regarding the presence of these boats in Guernsey waters, but the UK trawlers were not doing anything illegal as they are entitled to fish up to the island's three-mile limit under the reciprocal agreement with the UK.

No illegal activity

The committee met on Thursday to look at tightening controls inside that three-mile limit.

Currently UK trawlers that hold a Bailiwick licence are shorter than 17m and under certain power restrictions can fish right in to the shore.

The spokesperson said Sea Fisheries officers were continuing to patrol and had already boarded five or six boats, but found no evidence of illegal activity.

They believe up to eight boats have been working around the island since 20 April and officers suspect as the Scallops start to spawn near the start of June the boats would leave.

It is not just scallops though, as William Falla, a crab fisherman, said: "The ground will be no good for crabbing for at least one year afterwards.

"It'll be raked like a ploughed field and every crab on it destroyed. It's just ripping the crabs apart that are in it's way."

He said he had lost 22 crab pots and many in the industry suspected the trawlers of causing thousands of pounds worth of damage to fishing gear.

Mr Hallam said: "I've been fishing for 35 years, I've always enjoyed it. Now I don't.

"The first thing I say is where are they - and they say they're down there, so I have to go somewhere else. I know that if I do go down they'll just follow me.

"Wherever I go, they'll just follow behind, just in case I know where some scallops are. So it's taken all the enjoyment out of it for me now."

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