A Scottish charity has found its efforts to raise money for projects in Africa through the sale of recycled fishing nets in Vietnam stalled by Scotland’s environmental regulator.

The Oor Bairns Charitable Trust, run by retired Fraserburgh skipper Willie Whyte, takes apart old pelagic fishing nets and then sells the viable nylon, polypropylene cord and metal components, with the money raised going to support a variety of initiatives in Uganda and elsewhere.

Last year, seventy tons of old nets from Shetland’s pelagic fleet were donated to the charity. The metal components go to scrap, while the polypropylene ropes are sold to small fishing vessels for mooring ropes.

However, the planned purchase of some of the repurposed rope by the Vietnamese company Nam Duong Viet for use by fisherman in Vietnam has been held up by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).

According to Whyte: “We have the rope here all ready to go and Nam Duong Viet’s representative, Nguyen Tran Bien, has been to see it and is ready to make the purchase, but sadly the process is being held up by SEPA.

“They seem to be concerned that the rope won’t be used for its intended purpose – fishing nets.

“But Bien, as we know him, has already bought nets from Norway for the same thing and it’s hard to understand why there is such a long hold-up.”

The projects supported by the Oor Bairns Charitable Trust includes the provision of three scanners for pregnant women, courtesy of Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, to the Nakasangola community in Uganda. This follows the earlier provision of two scanners, as well as the funding of two sonographers from Raigmore to travel to Uganda to train medical staff in their use, and the building of a scan suite and a school. 

Oor Bairns has also supported vulnerable families in Kawondwe Village in Kalungi, funded the provision of piped water to the Nbiswera health centre, and is presently funding the construction of a farm in Nakasangola.

Commenting on last year’s donation to the charity, Sheila Keith of the Shetland Fisherman’s Association commented: “The local fleet has a reputation for support a range of different good causes, local, national and international, and are delighted once again to have been able to support Willie and his amazing work.”

SEPA did not respond to requests for comment at the time of publication.