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Cruising Gib to Canaries: Industrial fishing off Morocco is a hazard for yachts

By Lynda Lim — last modified Aug 02, 2018 05:45 AM
Contributors: Ron van Putten from SV Singara
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the view of noonsite.com or the World Cruising Club.
Skipper Ron van Putten was shocked to encounter so many extensive fishing nets blocking his path shortly after exiting the Straits of Gibraltar on route to the Canaries. He has sent noonsite some useful information to hopefully pre-warn others planning on taking this route.

Published: 2018-08-01 00:00:00
Topics: Atlantic Crossing
Countries: Canary Islands , Cape Verdes , Morocco , Gibraltar

Cruising Gib to Canaries: Industrial fishing off Morocco is a hazard for yachts

Fishing Nets are a major hazard for vessels sailing the Morocco coastline. Photo (c) PXHERE

Marine farms and tunny nets are prevalent on this cruising route and yachtsmen should exercise a high degree of caution in this area.

Yachts heading from Gibraltar to the Canary Islands are advised to follow the Shipping Lane completely and keep at least 15nm from shore, due to the high number of fishing nets and marine farms along this route, advises Ron van Putten from SV Singara.

“On May 18 2018, we started our journey to take our boat from Valencia in Spain to Las Palmas in the Canary Islands“ said Ron in a report to Noonsite. “Other than buying a courtesy flag of Morocco, we received no other information about any hazards from the Harbor authorities in Gibraltar.

“Although sailing at least 10nm out from the coast, during the evening we came across the first fishing nets and were redirected by small boats to sail back to the Shipping Lane. We quickly noticed that this was not a single fishing net, but a huge area of nets stretching over many kilometres and marked with colored flashing LEDs.

“When we were under sail again, we encountered a second line of nets and again a smaller boat with a flashing light redirected us to even deeper seas. When night fell, we heard on the VHF that a tanker (220 metres) was stuck in the nets.”

Ron says that after again encountering a number of lights, he made numerous calls on VHF Channel 16, which went unanswered.

“Then unfortunately, we hit one of these fishing nets and became trapped“ he said.  “It took 3 hours before a smaller boat came to us.  An English speaking man on board redirected us to a quick red flashing light, which apparently was the entrance and exit through the nets. During this time, we became aware of another long vessel (120 metres) getting stuck in the nets. We left the area after wasting more than half a day and were really upset about the situation.

“In the European Union, fishermen can fish within the 12nm zone or even in the Economic Zone, but are supposed to mark their fishing nets properly and the length of net should be such that you can navigate around it. In our case this was not possible. “

UK Chart (BA 142) mentions heavy fishing in this area and in the pilots (NP 1 and NP 67) the following text appears.

Marine farms exist within the area of this chart. They may not all be shown individually and their positions may change frequently. Marine farms may be marked by lit or unlit buoys or beacons. Mariners are advised to avoid these structures and their associated moorings.

Tunny nets exist within the area of this chart, extending as much as 7 miles from the shore. Mariners are warned to keep a good lookout for these nets, which may be marked by day and night.

Ron has reported however that the area of nets he encountered were much further out than the 7nm mentioned in the Pilot.

“As a pleasure yacht we are not allowed to use the shipping lane and that's why we sailed a few nautical miles south of it. But unfortunately we could not avoid the fishermen's nets,” he said.

Jim Field
Jim Field says:
Nov 03, 2018 09:24 PM

I have sailed this stretch a few times, but why do you think as a pleasure yacht you are not allowed in the shipping lanes? My understanding is that as long as you observe the regulations, i.e. give way to large vessels, you can use them.

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