Court orders £1.62 million payment for unlawful exploitation of fish stocks
Date issued: 26 July 2012
Truro Crown Court today (Thursday 26 July) ordered a Spanish fishing company, its UK subsidiary and their captains to pay a total of £1.62 million for serious fisheries offences. This is the highest court order amount ever imposed in a Marine Management Organisation (MMO) fisheries case.
It handed down the sentence in relation to illegal overfishing of ling and hake, a particularly vulnerable fish stock, between 2009 and 2010 by two fishing vessels – the Spanish-registered Coyo Tercero (3-VILL-13-02) and UK-registered O’Genita (FD529).
The case was brought by the MMO, which first detected offences in July 2010 following a routine boarding by HMS Tyne of the Coyo Tercero, owned by Hijos de Vidal Bandin SA, a Spanish company. After investigation of the vessel in Falmouth the MMO discovered a connection to the UK-registered vessel O’Genita, owned by subsidiary company Sealskill Ltd, of Fleetwood, Lancashire.
In August 2010, MMO officers searched the O’Genita while in port in Lochinver, Scotland, with investigations revealing extensive illegal boat-to-boat transfers (trans-shipment) of fish caught in Scottish and Irish waters then landed into Spain and the UK.
Charges brought by the MMO included providing false entries in logbooks and failing to record trans-shipments. The defendants – masters of the vessels, Jose Antonio Perez Garcia (Coyo Tercero) and Jose Manuel Martinez Sanchez (O’Genita), and the owning companies pleaded guilty to charges at an earlier hearing in Truro on 5 April 2012.
Danny Poulding, senior investigating officer for the Marine Management Organisation, said "We are pleased that the court has recognised the seriousness of these offences.
"This company systematically abused the quota system for significant and unfair financial gain, threatening the future sustainability of an already vulnerable fish stock and impacting on the businesses of legitimate fishermen by flooding the market with cheaper fish.
"The majority of the fishing industry is compliant with the rules that govern its commercial activities, but we will ensure that those who aren’t do not enjoy unfair financial advantage from illegal sales."
His Honour Judge Graham Cottle told the court the activity was a "systematic, repeated and cynical abuse of EU quota system over a period of 18 months" and "involved flagrant, repeated and long-term abuse of regulations by the masters of both vessels with foreknowledge, complicity and direction of the Spanish-registered company".
Notes to editors
The MMO is the independent regulator for the marine area, working for all those with an interest in the sustainable use of our seas.
The MMO recognises that the vast majority of the fishing industry is compliant with the rules that govern its commercial activities.
The MMO aims to encourage compliance with fisheries legislation through education, advice and guidance to the industry wherever possible. Where necessary we may take enforcement action which could result in a court appearance, potential fines for masters and owners, and forfeiture of equipment imposed by the court.
The MMO has worked closely with Zephyr to carry out the financial aspects of this investigation. Zephyr is the South West's regional serious and organised crime fighting team. It is made up of specialist officers from five police forces – Avon and Somerset, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Devon & Cornwall and Dorset. It brings together the capability and funding to gather intelligence, crack serious and organised crime networks and seize the assets of the criminals involved. Zephyr also works with the Serious Organised Crime Agency, HM Revenue and Customs, the UK Border Agency, the South West Trading Standards Enforcement Team and the Crown Prosecution Service. For more information on Zephyr please visit www.zephyrsouthwest.com
Marine Management Organisation
Newcastle upon Tyne
Tel: 0191 376 2543
Tel: 0191 376 2543
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