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MFA Wins Illegal Fishing Case

Jan 12,2007 SACN


MARINE FISHERIES AGENCY 

MFA                                                             12 January 2007


Marine Fisheries Agency wins huge illegal fish case at Liverpool Crown Court

Seventeen people, including trawler skippers and owners, admitted
their part in falsifying records of catches worth an estimated
£1.25million.


In a prosecution brought by the Marine Fisheries Agency, 17 out of 22
defendants who pleaded guilty to more than 90 specimen charges of
landing 'blackfish' were fined a total of £147, 200.  Fines ranged
from £800 to £30, 000.

Three others and two fishing companies, who also pleaded guilty, will
be sentenced later, after their assets have been investigated by the
Assets Recovery Agency on the orders of the Court.  Two other men
pleaded not guilty to offences and will face trial later this year.

Nine defendants were also ordered to pay a contribution totalling
£110, 500 towards prosecution costs.

Sentencing at Liverpool Crown Court today, Judge Nigel Gilmore, said
"If the word 'greed' means increasing profits by illegal means, then
all the defendants are guilty of greed."

Liverpool Crown Court heard that tonnes of cod, haddock, plaice and
scampi - all types of fish for which the European Commission sets
strict catch limits - had been landed illegally from 12 vessels at
Whitehaven in Cumbria and Kilkeel, Northern Ireland where they were
based.

The amount of fish caught was deliberately under-reported, breaking
the rules designed to ensure agreed quotas are strictly observed.  In
some cases quota species on the catch declarations had been
mis-represented as being non-quota species.  This undermines the
quotas set each year in Brussels, which rely on the work and advice
of fisheries scientists supported by accurate declarations of catches
from the fishermen. The quota system is designed to protect fish
stocks and thus the livelihood of fishermen by ensuring that they are
fished commercially at sustainable levels.

An investigation by the Marine Fisheries Agency including searches of
premises in Whitehaven and Kilkeel found that skippers' landing
declarations detailing their catches did not match actual sales
records for the fish.

When inspectors compared trawlers' log books and landing declarations
with legitimate buyers' receipts, they found that the quantities and
values of fish had been deliberately falsified.

Mike Parker, Marine Fisheries Agency District Inspector, said:

"The Marine Fisheries Agency regard this as a serious case of
cheating the system which is designed to safeguard fish stocks and
thus protect the livelihoods of fishermen.  This type of prosecution
is necessary to prevent the unlawful landing of species that are
subject to quota limits.

"We will prosecute offences of this nature robustly.  It is essential
that the fishing industry complies with the regulations which are
intended to ensure sustainable  fish stocks, in the long-term
interests of the fishing industry and the wider public."



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