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Fishing boat caught in Dounreay exclusion zone

Caithness Courier

7th August 2003

A NORTH-east fishing crew were the centre of a radiation scare yesterday after they were reported trawling in controlled waters off Dounreay.

Vessels have been banned from fishing within a two-kilometre radius of the site since an emergency order imposed in 1997 following the discovery of contamination on the seabed.

Coastguards were alerted to the presence of the Fraserburgh-registered Star of Hope within the exclusion zone early yesterday morning.

They informed the Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency which is responsible for policing the zone.

It is understood the 17-metre vessel had inadvertently drifted into the area and quickly withdrew after the skipper was advised of the position.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Executive said: “The Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency is aware of a report of a vessel fishing within the exclusion zone of Dounreay and is currently investigating the matter.”

The spokeswoman would not reveal what inquiries it is carrying out or whether the nets or other parts of the vessel had been monitored for radioactivity.

The zone is subject to the Food and Environmental Protection Act with any breach attracting sanctions ranging from an official warning to being reported to the procurator fiscal.

Dounreay’s operators, the UK Atomic Energy Authority, say it has no direct knowledge of the incident.

A spokesman said: “The UKAEA Constabulary was made aware of the presence of a boat off Dounreay though it was not aware whether it had been fishing at the time.
“We have no jurisdiction over it – as far as I understand it is a matter for the SFPA and the Food Standards Agency.”

The spokesman said there had not been a request for the site’s health physics department to monitor the vessel.

Greenpeace’s Pete Roche yesterday raised concern at the incident, which he said prompts the question of how skippers are made aware of the presence of the exclusion zone.
He said: “I would assume the SFPA will have made arrangements to monitor the vessel’s nets and anything else which may have come into contact with radioactive particles on the seabed.”

The exclusion zone was imposed in September 1997 on the recommendation of the FSA after a survey by divers recovered 35 radioactive hot spots from the seabed.
Since then, over 500 hot spots have been brought to the surface in annual dives which have cost the UKAEA over 7 million.

The contamination of the seabed as well as parts of the surrounding shoreline is believed to stem from a rogue discharge from the plant when hundreds of thousands of radioactive hot spots were released into the sea.