Spanish fishers fined £1.62 million at Truro court for quota abuse
12:26pm Thursday 26th July 2012 in News
Truro Crown Court today ordered a Spanish fishing company, its UK subsidiary and their captains to pay a total of £1.62 million for serious fisheries offences - the highest fine ever imposed in a Marine Management Organisation (MMO) fisheries case.
The court 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 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 April 5.
Danny Poulding, senior investigating officer for the MMO, 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."
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".