Cornish fishermen carry shotguns in tuna war

BRITISH tuna fishermen are arming themselves with guns before heading for the Bay of Biscay, the skipper of a Cornish fishing boat claimed yesterday.

He said the fishermen were carrying shotguns to defend themselves as they return to the area where there have been clashes with Spanish fishermen. Two boats had shotguns on board and he had been offered a .303 bolt-action rifle to defend his vessel and crew.

He also claimed several Irish boats were returning to the fishing grounds armed with semi-automatic rifles and Spanish ships had been disarmed by their navy in an attempt to prevent the violence

escalating.

It is not unusual for fishing boats to carry weapons: guns are often used for target practice with tin cans during quiet periods at sea and fishermen made clear that using firearms would be a last resort. But the Cornish fishermen are aware of the implications of taking guns to the Bay of Biscay during the confrontation with their Spanish rivals.

A second Cornish tuna boat has returned to its home port from the Bay of Biscay after a Ministry of Agriculture warning that its nets were too long, it emerged last night. At the weekend the Charisma was forced to return to Devonport after similar allegations, although neither the skipper nor the owner was subsequently charged.

The Newlyn-based boat involved in the second incident, which was confirmed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, has not been named.

Cornish fishermen complained yesterday that they were not receiving '100 per cent protection' from Royal Navy vessels in the Bay of Biscay during the dispute involving British, Spanish and French vessels.

Last night the Silver Harvester, the first Cornish tuna boat to have its nets cut by Spanish fishermen during clashes last week, arrived back in the bay after returning home for a refit.

Mike Hosking, the boat's owner, said: 'There is a large fleet of vessels there including French and Spanish fishermen with French and Spanish navy vessels.

'The Silver Harvester is preparing to shoot her nets and HMS Anglesey (a Royal Navy fisheries protection vessel) is alongside. We have heard no news of any confrontation.'

Lords back drift nets, page 2

Letters, page 13

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