A controversial plan to make Scottish scallop boats report every day to the Isle of Man has “disaster written all over it”, an experienced skipper has claimed.
Steve Girgan said that if the proposal is implemented it will be devastating and “dangerous” for the crews working in Manx waters.
On the 20th anniversary of the sinking of the scallop dredger the Solway Harvester, with the loss of all seven crew, he said the North Irish Sea was a “scary place”, but the regulation would require boats to ignore the conditions and make needless 10-hour round trips into an island port on every day of a five day trip.
The Manx government announced the rule, which is intended to protect stocks and prevent over-fishing, before Christmas, prompting an outcry from fishermen and politicians in the south-west.
It was due to come into force on Monday but was postponed after the Scottish Government accused the Isle of Man of breaching a fisheries agreement.
The administrations are now involved in talks while fishermen wait to hear the outcome of a proposal they fear could cost hundreds of jobs.
Mr Girgan, 53, is based in Kirkcudbright, the UK’s biggest scallop port, and has fished for king scallops on his vessel, the Susan Bird, for 35 years.
Speaking from the Irish Sea, he told the Daily Telegraph: “In some locations, reporting in would mean wasting at least 40 hours while burning an extra 3,000 litres of fuel.
“So you have a carbon emission issue, you’ve got wasting time and you’ve got more time away from home.
“There is also a huge safety factor as the north Irish Sea is a scary, scary place in the winter months. It is very unpredictable, weather patterns change in an instant and defy forecasts regularly.
“But this measure would force you to ignore these concerns and go to the Isle of Man come what may.
“I have a real fear this has disaster written all over it. And, ironically, today of all days is the 20th anniversary of the Solway Harvester being lost in the north Irish Sea.”
He claimed the move appeared to be about protectionism and “making it as difficult as possible for Scottish boats” and said it would damage fragile rural communities.
There are up to eight boats based in Kirkcudbright alone – home port of the Solway Harvester – with around 50 crew and another 100 processing jobs onshore.
Finlay Carson, Conservative MSP for Galloway and West Dumfries, accused the SNP of being slow to support the industry.
He said he had been raising the issue since last August, adding: “We cannot allow the Manx Government to unilaterally regulate our fishermen and do as it pleases.
“It is time to stand up to the Manx government, put proposals on the table and go to arbitration if they are not willing to listen.”
The Manx government said the king scallop industry was worth £12 million to the island and it was in the interests of all boats – including vessels from Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales – to safeguard the sustainability of stocks.
A spokesman added: “The Isle of Man Government has agreed to delay the implementation of this new licence condition by a week to allow more time for discussions with the Scottish Government.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said the Tory claims were “wrong” and the administrations were “working together in an attempt to come to an agreement that ensures all interests can benefit from sustainable fishing”.
She added: “We have been clear that the proposed measure breaches the Fisheries Management Agreement, which sets out the process by which the Isle of Man can introduce management measures into its territorial waters, in both the way it was introduced and its discriminatory impact on Scottish vessels.”