MFV FUGLENES IMPOUNDED IN STORNOWAY HARBOUR ON FRIDAY MORNING
What an exciting week it's been here on Lewis.
A 4000 square mile area of sea around Rockall is designated as a Special Area of Conservation by the European Commission and fishing is prohibited within the area. This designation is intended to protect the habitat of many marine species, but particularly of a fragile and rare cold water coral known as Lophelia Pertusa -(great name for a Flamenco dancer?)
Well, on Tuesday, a Scottish Fisheries Protection Vessel, the Jura, arrested the longliner MFV Fuglenes, shown above, for fishing in the banned area. The Fuglenes, a 38 metre Norwegian fishing boat, was then escorted 300 miles to the nearest port, Stornoway, by the Jura, a journey which took 26 hours. On arrival at Stornoway, the skipper of the Fuglenes, Captain Johansen, was reported to the Procurator Fiscal for illegal fishing and the poor man was then hauled before the Sheriff at Stornoway Sheriff Court on Friday, where he pled guilty.
Captain Johansen, who was second in command of a Norwegian Navy U boat before he became a fishing skipper, told the Court that he had made a 'genuine mistake' and had inserted the wrong co-ordinates into the ship's plotter, which then gave him 'the false impression that we were fishing outside of the banned zone.'
The Fiscal told the Court that the Fuglenes was detained by the Fisheries Protection Vessel whilst she was fishing well within the prohibited area and the Sheriff observed that it was 'rather worrying' that a former First Officer of a submarine could get his plot co-ordinates so wrong.
Captain Johansen was fined £5000. His catch of fish, a holdful of Blue Ling, was weighed by Fisheries Enforcement Officers and a valuation of £31,500, after expenses, was agreed between them and the skipper . In a very generous gesture, Captain Johansen transferred that sum to his fishing agent before he left Stornoway and the money is now being donated to two Lewis charities, the Stornoway RNLI lifeboat and the Fishermen's Mission, both of whom expressed gratitude for this unexpected windfall.
Even as we speak, the Fuglenes is on its way back to Norway, where the skipper will sell his catch and presumably reflect on his navigational skills.
When I came to live here, more than five years ago, I brought with me three digital radios, two of which I had bought and one which was a gift. The FM signal where I used to live was rubbish and digital reception was great. I was particularly fond of listening to Planet Rock and BBC 7, which broadcasts lots of plays and repeats of old radio programmes from the 50's, 60's and 70's. Both of those stations were only broadcasting on digital, not FM.
Arriving on Lewis, I soon discovered that there was no digital radio signal here and no plans whatsoever to provide one. My digital radios were put in a cupboard and there they remained until yesterday, useless. From time to time, I thought about giving them away or selling them, but never got round to it. It has been a curious feature of life on Lewis that all of the shops selling electrical goods, including the Co-op and Tesco, have had shelves full of digital radios, when there has been absolutely no signal. A couple of years ago, I got the manager of the Co-op out of his office and asked him why he persisted in selling radios that could not be used here. The reply - ' I don't know. I just sell what head office send me. Perhaps people buy them as presents for relatives and friends on the mainland.' Perhaps, but an answer that infuriated me. Every few weeks since then, I have plugged in one of the digital radios to see if a signal has arrived while I've been asleep, but have always received a message saying 'No Digital Reception.'
Jump forward to this week . A local man wrote to the Hebrides Internet news site saying that he needed a new radio and bought an FM model which also had DAB. When he got it home and plugged it in, he was astonished to find that it tuned itself in to a number of digital radio stations. He then looked on the web and could find no information disclosing or boasting that we have been provided with a digital radio signal here in the Outer Hebrides. Eventually, he managed to find out that we started to receive a limited signal here on March 22, with no advertising or fanfare. In his letter, this man said he was receiving 11 BBC radio stations.
I have been playing with my radios this morning and find that I can receive 10 stations, all BBC, including the wonderful BBC 7. Sadly, no commercial stations, so no Planet Rock, but I'm grateful for what we've got.