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Macduff Shellfish ordered to pay £125,000 bail to release detained trawler

By Ewan Malcolm

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MACDUFF shellfish have been ordered to pay a fine of £125,000 by French authorities to release their detained trawler.

French authorities say the trawler won't be released until the fine is paid.
French authorities say the trawler won't be released until the fine is paid.

The skipper of the Cornelius Gert Jan could also face a fine of £63,000 if he is convicted following a criminal trial next year.

The skipper, who is yet to be named, will face charges of unauthorised sea fishing in French maritime salt waters by a third party vessel to the European Union.

The fine outweighs anything the boat might have earned during what started off as a five day trip to fish for scallops.

Andrew Brown, Director of Public Affairs for Macduff Shellfish, said: "It's still detained in Le Havre. We are expecting a decision by Tuesday or Wednesday."

The trawler, which sails out of West Sussex, was fishing off the coast of Normandy when it was ordered into a French port by local authorities. Currently the crew remain in Normandy and won't be allowed to leave until the fine is paid.

Mr Brown said that the fishing licence was "the point of contention" after French authorities accused the crew of fishing without it.

However, Macduff Shellfish said that they were "content" that they were fishing legally and have accused France of using them as a "pawn" in a dispute over post-Brexit fishing rights.

Access to French waters for fishing is included through the awarding of licences as part of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) set out between the EU and UK following Brexit.

Banff and Buchan MP David Duguid said that it was important that the Macduff trawler's detainment does not lead to "concessions" with the French Government.

He said: "I've been in discussions with the industry and with UK Government ministers on this issue.

"The French appear to be accusing the UK of not following the terms of the TCA but I'm assured that we are merely following the terms for awarding licences that was agreed.

"The language we are hearing from the French Government is very unhelpful.

"In my discussions with the industry, everyone agrees this escalation of the debate is helping no one.

"I'm working with the UK Government to make sure that we don't grant concessions to the French beyond those agreed in the TCA."

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