Friday, 2 June 2006

Missing at sea

<![CDATA[ Search area for FV The Brothers. Image reproduced with permission of Ordnance Survey and Ordnance Survey of Northern IrelandReports came through this morning that a fishing boat had gone missing in the Minch. The Banff-registered boat The Brothers, which operated out of Gairloch, had left that port at 2.30 on Thursday morning, and was not heard of after 4 a.m. the same day.

A shore search is being carried out around Gairloch, with 20 fishing vessels, coastguard boats and a helicopter searching 100 square miles of the Minch. Conditions today are reasonable, with good visibility and moderate to fresh breezes. An oilslick sighted off Gairloch has been ruled out as having any connection with the fishing boats.

In the 18 months that I have been in the isles, incidents with fishing boats are a regular if depressing feature of the news. The fishing industry is recognised as the most dangerous occupation in the UK. Men fall overboard, and do not stand much chance of survival. The temperature of the Atlantic varies between 9 and 14 C, which gives about 45 minutes of survival time. Fisherman are commonly dressed in heavy oilskins, which will drag them down in the water.

Others have had to be rescued off their boats after sustaining injury; on occasions the Coastguard helicopter has had to fly 200 miles west of the Western Isles to pick a man up. One of the saddest incidents took place in December 2004, when a local boat left Stornoway harbour and inexplicably ran aground about 100 yards south of Arnish Lighthouse. The skipper died of drowning, with his two crewmembers coming out with hypothermia.
Last winter, a Buckie boat went down 75 miles southeast of Sumburgh Head (Shetland). The man who perished on that occasion was the son of a skipper who went down in the same area in 1979. ]]>

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