Fishermen in harbour protest over restrictions

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SCOTTISH fishermen intend to pack a harbour with slogan-draped boats today in protest at government plans to restrict fishing.

The demonstration at Lossiemouth, Grampian, will be the first time the harbour has been filled for a generation. A local skipper, John Thomson, said: 'It will be the Moray fleet review - and it will be carrying a message for the Government.'

The fishermen have carried out a series of protests against British and EC fishery measures which they claim unfairly penalise British boats. Earlier this month fishermen briefly blockaded the west coast port of Lochinver, and a protest convoy of 60 boats accompanied the royal yacht Britannia as it sailed towards Edinburgh for the EC summit.

EC talks in Brussels last week gave British boats a bigger haddock quota, but fishermen remain unhappy at the Government's Sea Fish Conservation Bill, likely to become law, which restricts the number of days that boats can go fishing. Foreign boats in their areas face no similar restrictions.

Mr Thomson said the Lossiemouth plan was inspired by the number of boats tied up in port that had completed their allotted fishing days. 'There will be a lot of administration needed under the new measures - and we won't be trying to make it work. What other business would be told to tie up for half the working year?'

Fishermen want conservation goals to be achieved by other means, including a decommissioning scheme to take boats out of the industry, and larger net sizes to let young fish escape.

Margaret Ewing, the Scottish National Party MP whose Moray constituency includes Lossiemouth, said the new law would 'stand in the way of honest men earning a decent living'.

She said: 'The fleet in Lossiemouth and other coastal towns want to make it clear that the fishing debate did not stop in Brussels last week.'