FISHERMAN:'¨I FEARED'¨FOR MY'¨ LIFE
A Fleetwood fisherman feared he might be killed after a terrifying near miss with a much larger survey vessel out in the Irish Sea.
John Worthington was out trawling a catch on his 10m fishing vessel Mi-amor (FD1) when his boat and the 20m plus survey vessel Fairline Surveyor, employed in the windfarm industry, came within just a few metres of colliding.
Had the two vessels made contact, the veteran fisherman says his boat would have been destroyed and he could have been killed.
Mr Worthington, 51, of Troutbeck Avenue, captured the incident on camera and says it outlines the difficulties the inshore boats are now facing as the windfarm industry expands.
DONG Energy is in the process of creating the new Walney Extension wind farm project just off Walney Island in Cumbria, but some of the waters coincide with where the fishermen ply their trade and the two parties are currently involved in a dispute over compensation.
DONG says it has received no complaint about the near collision and insists safety is a priority.
“It was a very frightening incident and I thought I was going to be hit. I think the vessel was laying some cable for the new project and I was actually in the process of landing a catch.
“I didn’t expect our vessels to come so close and this shows just what we are up against, it is becoming really difficult for us to make an actual living.”
A DONG spokesman said: “Safety is DONG Energy’s top priority. We take seriously any claim of a potential incident involving vessels operating on the construction of our wind farms. At this stage we have received no formal complaint from the relevant authorities.”
Mr Worthington, who says he contacted the Maritime and Coastguard Agency about the incident, has been fishing in the Irish Sea for more than 30 years, but he says the current situation is tough as he seeks to land brill, sole, plaice, skate, dogfish and dabs.
Some of the few remaining inshore boats are still in dispute with DONG over the level of compensation they are being offered if they cease fishing in their traditional waters for more than a year while cables are laid for the new scheme.
Mr Worthington says the amount being offered -£750 per boat for a year - doesn’t take into account the full loss of earnings.
Will Bamber, spokesman for the Fleetwood Commercial Fishermen’s Group (FCFG), said: “We could have had a fatality out at sea if it had come just a few metres closer.
“What is frustrating is that we have been told to keep our distance from where they are laying cable, but one of the survey vessels can come right up to where our members fish.
“It is very difficult for our members, so much so that personally I have even had to get my self into debt by buying a bigger boat to fish elsewhere, just because I can no longer fish out there in Morecaambe bay.”
But despite this, Mr Bamber said there was some hope for a better deal for the fishermen following a meeting with DONG representatives last week.
He said: “They have asked us to produce more paperwork as proof of what we are actually earning.
“We will go along with that - if it proves what we can earn, hopefully it may lead to a more generous deal from DONG.”
A DONG spokesman added: “In preparation for the construction of Walney Extension offshore wind farm, DONG Energy has reached agreement with groups representing around 150 fishermen operating from various ports around the Irish Sea. Where applicable, these agreements cover appropriate disturbance payments for any potential loss of catch, or other costs, that can be demonstrated to result from the construction work.
“We have also been talking for some time with a small group - originally 10-strong - known as the Fleetwood Commercial Fishermen’s Group [FCFG].
“Offers, calculated using industry guidance, were made to this group and, currently, only three FCFG members have declined to accept with seven members having either accepted the offers and/or left the FCFG group.
“Talks are continuing and the offers that DONG Energy has made to date remain available to the fishermen involved.”