Pubdate: Sun, 22 Nov 1998
Source: Scotsman (UK)
Copyright: The Scotsman Publications Ltd 
Author: Frank Urquhart


THE Scottish fishing industry yesterday announced plans to set up a working
party to investigate the scale of drug use among trawler crews.

The scheme was announced at a drugs and industry conference in Fraserburgh,
organised by the Scottish White Fish Producers' Association.

But Sandy Wisely, the Fraserburgh GP who revealed the extent of heroin use
among local fishing crews this year, condemned the industry last night for
its failure to act decisively.

He said he had produced evidence of disturbing levels of opiate use among
Fraserburgh fishermen in March. That abuse, he said, was reflected only two
weeks ago in a Grampian Health Board study that showed that 2.5 per cent of
the population of the Buchan town aged between 14 and 54 are regularly
using heroin and other opiates.

Dr Wisely revealed that heroin use among fishermen in the town was, if
anything, on the increase.

Eighty per cent of the narcotic overdose patients aged between 17 and 30
being treated at his surgery are "active, working fishermen".

He declared: "The study I produced was concrete proof. We can't afford
another seven or eight months of inactivity. Having been informed of the
situation in March, I find it a pretty poor response to call a meeting for
November and then form a strategy. What's happened in the last eight
months? It's ridiculous."

Industry leaders insisted that they would have to wait until new research
produced hard evidence of the scale of the problem before the appropriate
remedies could be put in place.

George MacRae, the SWFPA secretary, defended its stance, saying: "At the
moment we do not know the extent of any perceived drug problem at sea. We
are not going to be drawn into establishing conclusions before the working
group has had an opportunity of meeting.

"Aberdeen University will be providing research facilities to assist us and
the working group will determine how best to address the issue of
establishing the extent of the problem and also coming up with any
suggestions as to how it might be dealt with."

Questioned about the conclusions of Dr Wisely's report on heroin use among
Fraserburgh fishermen, Mr MacRae replied: "I am certainly not getting into
any controversy with Dr Wisely. I represent the SWFPA and we are addressing
the issue in a responsible way as, six months ago, we said we would do.

"We are of the view that the drugs problem originated onshore and that is
where any solution will be found."

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Checked-by: Pat Dolan