FISHERIES & OCEANS
Bugaled Breizh: Did NATO sink Breton fishing trawler in 2004?
Book to reveal new evidence on trawler loss
By BERNARD MOFFAT*
Special to Shunpiking Online
Photos by S Jolivel, agencebretagnepresse.com
The 23m (72ft) Bugaled Breizh - meaning "child of Brittany" in the Breton language - was based at the small port of Loctudy in Brittany, France.
Then, on a relatively clear day, it sank with the loss of five experienced trawlermen.
The weather had abated and although it was misty, the sea was calm when the last words of the mate of the vessel were heard soon before lunchtime on the day of the tragedy.
"Come quickly. We are sinking."
The words were heard by the crew of Eridan, another French trawler, suggesting that the sinking happened without any warning.
"It must have happened very quickly because he did not have time to get on an emergency frequency and speak to us."
Reactions in the western French port town of Loctudy have been furious. "It's murderous behaviour. These are not people of the sea," Michel Cap, director of the Loctudy sea rescue service, told the BBC.
French prosecutors at one point considered charges of involuntary manslaughter, "that is to say, breaking the rules of navigation which were in force in that zone" but the identify of the boat, initially believed to have been a container ship, has been shrouded in secrecy. In a possible misdirection, the chief suspect was named as a Philippines-registered bulk carrier the "Seattle Trader", but analysis of paint debris from her bow later cleared it.
The sinking of the Breton trawler, killing all 5 crew members, is still surrounded by mystery. A report from the Bureau Enquête Accident (BEA) failed to ally concerns that NATO naval exercises, taking place in the area at the time, may have had something to do with the sinking of the Breton vessel.
Marine accident experts, commissioned to investigate by the families of the Bugaled Breizh crew and the Guilvinec fishermen's committee, say the vessel was pulled under by a submarine. They said a submarine could have caught the trawler cable in its rudder or propeller which could have dragged down the back of the trawler. "The trawler rears up immediately and sinks from the back end very quickly," they said. "The submarine can resume its course without too much damage and furthermore the accident goes unnoticed by most of the crew." This theory has always been denied by the BEA Office.
According to an investigation in May 2005 by French TV channel FR3 with a Paris magazine, the trawler was sunk by HMS Turbulent, one of five of the Royal Navy's seven Trafalgar Class hunter-killer boats based at Devonport, UK.
The book, due to be published this month, will substantiate this theory that the Bugaled Breizh was hit by a submarine. The authors, who have been working on the book for two years, say they have uncovered previously unpublished evidence to support their claims.
They reveal that a NATO exercise and a Royal Navy exercise were taking place in the vicinity of the Bugaled Breizh at the time of its sinking, and the area was populated by warships. Four submarines, and two warships from Britain, France, the Netherlands, Spain and Germany were in the area for the Aswex04 anti-submarine exercise, run by British naval authorities. They also question why the HMS Turbulent, expected to take part in the naval exercise, had to return early to repair serious damage, the cause of which remains unknown, and why the French and English navies are refusing to comment openly on the tragedy.
The Celtic League first wrote to authorities in England and France in January 2004 expressing concerns. In November 2006 it again wrote to the French government expressing reservations about the way that the matter had not been investigated and called for a full independent public inquiry. A reply is still waiting.
The authors Sébastien Turay and Laurent Richard are two experienced journalists who have spent two years investigating the sinking of the Bugaled Breizh. The book will be published this month by First Editions, contains 320 pages and will cost 19,90 * (ISBN 978-2-7540-0297-4)
In May, 2004 demonstrations of more than 1,500 people in Quimper forced the French government to salvage the trawler to gather vital evidence.
The sinking of the Breton trawler is not an isolated or unique example of military manslaughter. To cite but one instance, in The Gaul Mystery, Graham Smith, a journalist with over 30 years experience, explored the mystery surrounding the sinking of the Hull trawler Gaul, a 220ft-long state-of-the-art factory fishing trawler, in the Barents Sea off northern Norway by a nuclear submarine with the loss of all 36 crewmen in February 1974 and the secrecy surrounding it to this day. The British government suppressed the exact location of the sinking for two decades. A British judge blamed the sinking on crew negligence and bad maintenance. The Barents Sea was a very sensitive area for military intelligence during the Cold War era. It was the passageway for submarines and surface vessels of the former Soviet Union fleet based in Murmansk heading out into the Atlantic Ocean.
* This article has been edited by Shunpiking Online, with files from news agencies. J B Moffat is director of information for the Celtic League, which has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, monitors all military activity and focuses on socio-economic issues.
On the Internet
Report (in French) at Agence Bretagne Presse:
http://www.agencebretagnepresse.com See also Celtic News Nos:
For related Celtic News items on this issue see Celtic News Nos:
2067: PUBLIC INQUIRY CALL OVER BUGALED BREIZH SINKING - Dec 2006 2057: BRETON TRAWLER - ENQUIRY REPORT ANGERS FAMILIES - Nov 27 2006
1978: BUGALED BREIZH - WHY NO ANSWERS - MEETING WILL ASK - Jul 29, 2006
1697: NAVY PLAY DOWN INVOLVEMENT IN FISHING TRAGEDY - May 2, 2005
1668: SCOURGE OF THE COLD WAR RETURNS - Mar 26, 2005
1648: MORE QUESTIONS FOR MILITARY OVER BRETON BOAT LOSS - Feb 12, 2005
1514: BUGALED BREIZH SINKING - NEW QUESTIONS - Oct 9, 2004
1497: BUGALED BREIZH - NAVAL UNIT DISPOSITION CONFUSION - Aug 23, 2004
1471: TRAWLER FAMILIES CAMPAIGN TO RAISE VESSEL - Jun 30, 2004 1464: ANOTHER MFV SNAGGED BY A SUB - May 15, 2004
See also earlier Celtic League archive on this subject at:
Internet site at http://www.manxman.co.im/cleague
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