Scottish fishermen blockade three harbours in quota row

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The Independent Online
A LIGHTHOUSE supply ship was trapped by fishing boats at Oban yesterday as Scottish fishermen blockaded three west coast harbours in the biggest demonstration against government restrictions on the time they can spend at sea.

More than 130 boats disrupted shipping at Kyle of Lochalsh, Oban and Tarbert. As well as trapping the supply ship Pharos they held up a Spring Series yacht race for seven hours at Tarbert, but left ferry traffic largely unaffected.

The biggest protest was at Kyle of Lochalsh, where fishermen staged a similar blockade on Saturday. Yesterday nearly 70 boats blockaded the channel between Skye and the mainland, halting work on the new Skye bridge. All three blockades ended last night.

Representatives of fishermen's associations from all over Scotland met yesterday in Aberdeen to discuss the quotas for next year, issued a fortnight ago. Although the Scottish Fishermen's Federation has said little about the recent protests, which have been dismissed as local affairs, a unified protest was not being ruled out.

The Government has told fishermen the number of days they will be allowed to fish next year. The lowest allocation is 80 days, which will mainly apply to small boats fishing for prawns and scallops. Skippers say this will mean financial ruin.

But the Scottish fisheries minister, Sir Hector Monro, defended the restrictions as part of a 'balanced package' to conserve fish stocks and guarantee the long-term future of the industry. 'The allocation of days at sea are provisional and the intention is to give fishermen as many days to fish as they had in 1991.'

John Henderson, a Mallaig skipper taking part in the Skye protest, said: 'With no restrictions applying to others in the EC, like the Spanish, French or Portuguese, how can this be considered as conservation?' He has been given a 160-day allocation. Last year, he fished 240 days.

(Photographs and map omitted)