Fishing firms warned after 'blackfish' case –

Fishing firms warned after ‘blackfish’ case Published:  22 June, 2009

FISHING companies were warned at the weekend that the full force of the law will be brought to bear on them if they break EU quota rules.

The warning was issued after the large Newlyn-based trawler operator W. Stevenson and Sons was ordered by Exeter Crown Court to pay £7660,000 in compensation and costs arising from an earlier ‘blackfish’ scam which saw high value quota fish being mis-recorded as not quota species.

Nigel Gooding, chief executive of the Marine and Fisheries Agency, which originally brought the compensation claim, said: ‘This was an environmental and financial crime. Quota was available for these species of fish throughout the investigation period.

‘The deception was done for financial gain – not to avoid discarding fish. And these activities both endangered fish stocks and penalised legal fishermen by depressing prices.’

The MFA investigation, which at one time was seeking compensation of up to £4 million, said the offences would not have been discovered without the diligence of its officers who conducted a painstaking year-long investigation. He added: ‘I want to congratulate the MFA’s fishery officers involved in this case.

The deputy director of the Serious Organised Crime Agency – or SOCA – ( who was not named) said after the case: ‘These were serious criminal offences which the court decided were committed over a long period of time and which puts legitimate businesses at risk.If you try to profit from crime, SOCA and its partners will use all the powers available to take those profits away.’