Ritchie continues to pursue a fully fledged solution for the fishing industry in the Irish Sea following the incident between the Royal Navy and the Karen Fishing Vessel in the Irish Sea
Margaret Ritchie said today
“I have had several meetings and direct representations with the Armed Forces Minister, Penny Mordaunt MP regarding the need to find an adequate and suitable resolution for the fishing industry in the Irish Sea to ensure that it will not encounter any further impediments or obstacles from submarines which could interfere with fishing effort.
Some nine months ago, on the 15th April 2015, a local Ardglass fishing vessel called the Karen had it’s nets snagged and was dragged downwards by submarine underwater activity. At that stage, the British Government indicated that the vessel that was involved in the incident with the Karen was not theirs. This was subsequently found out not to be the case, and in fact the British Government indicated in early September that it was a vessel belonging to the Royal Navy, issued an apology to the owner of the Karen vessel and stated that compensation for the damage done to the boat would be forthcoming.
Following the most recent representations to the Minister to clarify what further action the British Government, and in particular, the Ministry of Defence will take to prevent such incidences in the future, I have been told by the Minister in Parliamentary correspondence just received that changes have been made to operational issues for the Royal Navy in the Irish Sea. The changes that have been made relate to the instructions given to Commanding Officers and, when the specific circumstances of the Karen Incident which took place on the 15th April became known, revised guidance was issued immediately.
According to the Minister for the Armed Forces the process by which a vessel is classified has been reinforced, using even stricter criteria to prevent incorrect assumptions being made by the submarine. If a vessel’s identification cannot be definitively established, the Commanding Officer must assume that it is a fishing vessel with nets in the water and behave accordingly. This instruction now informs the training given to future Commanding Officers.
Furthermore, the Minister has also informed me that the Royal Navy’s reporting procedures have been reviewed to enable it to confirm more quickly whether a UK submarine was involved. The Minister has stated that “for operational reasons, if we cannot confirm quickly that it was not us, we will assume that it was. There should be no delay in verifying whether a Royal Navy submarine was involved, regardless of the kind of submarine it was and the operation or activity it was conducting”.
I hope that further such incidents involving the Royal Navy and other such vessels will not happen again. Fishing effort must be allowed to take place unhindered and without obstacles being put in the way of fishermen and the fishing industry. I will continue to pursue and review this issue both with the fishing industry and the Ministry of Defence”.