A HEBRIDEAN fishing crew is heading for Morocco because they claim they are unable to catch enough fish in their home waters.
The Barra-registered Prowess is sailing to the coast of North Africa to catch sardines and mackerel because the quotas for Scottish waters have run out.
The four-week trip is possible under an EU agreement allowing a certain number of European vessels to catch in Moroccan waters each year.
For a Scottish boat to venture so far south is almost unknown. Decades ago, Scottish and UK vessels fished off Iceland and Norway, and some even went to the waters off Newfoundland. But in recent years they have mostly stayed in UK waters.
John Archie MacLeod, the skipper of the 60-metre boat, said: "There are plenty of fish in the seas up here but the problem is that we are not allowed to catch them. So we're going to Morocco, and we will land down there. We've been around the English Channel a couple of times before, but this is the first time we have headed for North Africa."
The vessel will fish for the limited UK quota off North Africa which is mostly for fish such as sardines and mackerel, and they will land their catches in the port of Dajhla. The 10-man crew will take on an extra four Moroccans when they arrive in order to get local knowledge about the best fishing grounds.
Ironically, some of the sardines they will catch are likely to find their way to the UK in cans. Each year, the UK imports about 2,400 tonnes of sardines from Morocco.
The controversial EU Common Fisheries Policy allocates various nations certain quotas of the various species which they may catch. Once quotas have run out, the crews must either stay at port or go elsewhere to find fish.
Crunch EU fishing talks on next year's quotas will be held in Brussels in the run-up to Christmas. For the first time in six years, International Council for the Exploration of the Sea scientists have not advocated a complete ban on netting North Sea cod.
Scottish ministers think crews north of the Border should be allowed to catch more cod this year, as well as more haddock and whiting.
Last month, Scotland on Sunday reported how farmers are being urged to grow tropical fish in their barns to make money.
Scientists claim farmers could balance their books by converting disused outhouses to rear tilapia - which usually thrive in the warm waters of Africa and Asia.
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