The Breton fishing trawler, Bugaled Breizh, whose name means “children of Brittany” in the Breton language, sank suddenly off Cornwall in 2004, although the weather conditions were good, the vessel was well maintained and had an experienced crew. There has been a long running series of inquiries into the loss and now a British inquest that ended on 5th November 2021 has concluded that the sinking, which killed five people, was an accident. So rejecting claims it had been dragged down by a submarine. The inquest has suggested that it is likely that “soft snag”, where vessel’s fishing trawl gear became buried and snagged in the seabed led to the progressive loss of stability of the vessel, which ultimately caused the Bugaled Breizh to sink.
Lawyers for the victims’ families had argued that a submarine on exercises in the area when Bugaled Breizh sank could have become tangled with the boat’s nets and pulled it down. There were submarines in the area at the time of the sinking. A large NATO naval exercise was underway involving several submarines including from the Netherlands, Germany and France. Some years ago, in response to enquiries by the Celtic League, the British MOD gave the League the locations of all vessels involved in the exercise. Relatives of the victims have also long suspected that British submarines could have been involved, but this is denied by the British navy.
The Celtic League has been at the forefront of exposing and calling for investigations into a number of incidents involving fishing vessels and submarines. The Celtic League supplied a dossier of evidence to the Coroner on submarine/MFV incidents in regard to the present inquest. Although the inquest has concluded the a submarine was not involved in the sinking of Bugaled Breizh, relatives remain highly skeptical. Families of the lost crew remain unconvinced by the inquest conclusion. They do not believe the soft snag theory and argue the crew were too experienced to let such an accident happen.
The families are also angry they were not allowed to call into question the credibility of the navy and to point out that logs and other documents recording the allied submarines’ positions could have been falsified. Had they been allowed to do so, lawyers for the families could have asked commanders about the case of the Karen, a trawler whose gear was snagged by a Royal Navy submarine in 2015 off the north of Ireland. The UK’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch criticised the navy for not revealing until almost five months after the incident that a submarine was involved.
Submitted by Alastair Kneale
DOI Celtic League (5th November 2021)