Scallop dredgers have been accused of destroying £100,000 of lobster pots and wreaking environmental havoc by dredging valuable shellfish grounds off the Yorkshire coast.
In the past fortnight, vessels from other parts of the country have been dredging waters normally fished by crab and lobster fisherman from Bridlington.
Locals have been telling the incomers where their pots are only to find hours later that area has been dredged and their gear has been towed away.
There are no quotas set by the European Union on scallop fishing and boats roam about, often running into conflict with local fisheries.
The problem is their heavy steel beams not only destroy sealife, but can also badly damage the lobsters’ habitats.
The Holderness Coast Fishing Industry Group’s chief executive, Mike Cohen, said he had just had another message from a fisherman who had 40 pots missing since Saturday. “That’s another £4,000 for one fisherman,” he added.
Mr Cohen said the marine management organisation would act if shellfishermen were found to be landing under-sized lobsters, but destroying gear was not considered an offence.
There were sometimes claims it was beneficial for an area to be “ploughed” as crabs were attracted back to scavenge on the dead material.
But the problem was the damage to lobsters, which have a defined territory for life, breeding and spawning in situ.
Mr Cohen said the offending boats acted as if they were “above the law.”
He added: “They are giving that part of the industry a bad name which they frankly don’t deserve. There are plenty of good well-run scallop boats who don’t do this sort of thing.”
On its website the Scallop Association says their fishermen “are committed to engaging in dialogue with environmental NGOs on scallop fishing”.
They say the sector – which is worth £120m year – employs 600 fishing sector jobs and 750 processor jobs.