• January 18, 2015


The Secretary General of the Celtic League has used the anniversary of the sinking of the Bugaled Breizh to call for further improvements to both International and Domestic maritime law so that Submarine/MFV collisions will be avoided in the future.

The Celtic League took a prominent role some years ago in pressing the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to act. Eventually via the Irish government and particularly the work of Hugh Byrne TD the IMO adopted Resolution A 599 (15) (since superceded by A 709 (17) ).

The statement from Celtic League Secretary General, Rhisiart Tal-e-bot, is set out below:

“A ceremony will take place today (Sunday 18th January) in Brest and Loctudy, Breizh (Brittany) to remember the loss of the five fishermen aboard the Bugaled Breizh trawler, which sank off the coast of the Lizard in Kernow (Cornwall) on the 15th January 2004. After ten years it is still a mystery as to why the vessel sank.

One overriding theory to explain the sinking remains, which is the strong possibility that the vessel was sunk by one of the many submarines from different States that were in the area at the time playing NATO war games. However many of the military authorities responsible for the submarines from the various State jurisdictions, including Britain and the Netherlands, vehemently deny that their submarines had anything to do with the incident and some evidence has been produced to show this was the case, even though some of what was presented was contradictory.

Traces of titanium paint found on the fishing nets of the Bugaled Breizh trawler, allegations that one of the submarine commanders had since admitted to several ‘close shaves’ with fishing boats in the past and had even reported damage to his submarine during the NATO exercise in question and the possibility that a mysterious Russian submarine had also been in the area spying on the NATO war exercise, suggest that a submarine may well have been responsible for the sinking. If the Bugaled Breizh had been sunk by a submarine it would not have been the first time that such an accident had occurred, as the Celtic League has well documented in its reports on these matters over the years.

The sinking of the vessel has inspired a book (Le Bugaled Breizh, les secrets d’états autour d’un naufrageto) to be written and a film (The Silent Killer) to be made about the incident and in 2013 a memorial photograph of the Bugaled Breizh was unveiled at a pub on the Lizard, Cornwall by the owner of the vessel to remember the fishermen who lost their lives.

However, as the League’s Director of Information, Bernard Moffatt, commented in an earlier post that even though the campaign must continue to be pursued to obtain answers, “with the passage of time it becomes more and more difficult to get an adequate solution to these mysteries”.

The answer to why the Bugaled Breizh sunk on 15th January 2004 with the loss of all five fishermen aboard could still be discovered, but it is by no means certain. The inquiry into the incident has proved inconclusive, but surmised in 2008 that the possibility that the trawler sank as a result of contact with a submarine that was in the vicinity at the time remains the most likely cause. Due to the fact that a specific submarine has not been identified as the direct cause of the sinking, the families of the fishermen and the owner of the vessel have not been able apportion blame and have not received any compensation for their loss.

The Celtic League remembers the sinking of the Bugaled Breizh today, along with all those gathered in Brest and Loctudy, and hopes that at some point in the future an answer as to why this terrible accident occurred is forthcoming. One thing for certain that needs to occur is for communication lines between the military and civilian authorities to be further strengthened and exclusion zones around our coasts for dived operations be established so that unnecessary deaths, like those caused through the sinking of the Bugaled Breizh, do not ever happen again.”

Link for IMO Resolution A 709 (17) is set out below:


J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information


(Please note that replies to correspondence received by the League and posted on CL News are usually scanned hard copies. Obviously every effort is made to ensure the scanning process is accurate but sometimes errors do occur.)


The Celtic League 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

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