A group of fishermen caught illegally electrocuting razor clams earlier this month during a night-time raid are now facing prosecution or fines of up to £10,000.
As enforcement officers from Marine Scotland approached a boat in the Sound of Jura in the early hours of September 10, fishing gear was unceremoniously dumped overboard. It has since been recovered by divers and confiscated.
According to the government, the razor clams were being harvested in an area that had not been licenced for shell fishing. This meant that they could be poisoned by algal toxins and hence be “unfit for human consumption”.
The raid is the latest in a concerted crackdown on the illegal multi-million pound electro-fishing business. Boats drag arrays of electrodes powered by an on-board generator across the seabed to deliver a shock that forces clams out of their burrows.
The vessel intercepted by Marine Scotland officers last week after an “intelligence-led operation” resulted in the seizure of clams worth up to £4,000 in the Far East. Neither the boat, nor its crew have been named.
The fisheries minister, Richard Lochhead, stressed that the government was determined to enforce the law. “It is vital that our reputation is not damaged by produce caught in waters which have not been classified as fit for human consumption,” he told the Sunday Herald.
“Unsuspecting consumers could catch shellfish poisoning from eating the illegal razor clams from unclassified waters. That is why catching those involved in this illegal activity is vitally important.”
He pointed out that electro-fishing was not currently permitted in Scottish waters. “This will be followed by either a heavy fine or prosecution for those involved. They will not escape lightly,” he warned.
“This case should serve as a clear warning to any others that continue to engage in illegal fishing that they should stop or risk being caught and facing serious consequences.”
Ministers introduced a new permitting system for fishermen in 2014, and increased the maximum fines this year. Recorded catches of razor clams have fallen from 915 tonnes worth £3.1 million in 2013 to 423 tonnes worth £1.6 million in 2014.
Since 2008, there have been 32 cases of alleged illegal electro-fishing around the Scottish coast. Of those, 18 have been fined, five have not been punished, four are with the Procurator Fiscal and five are still under consideration by Marine Scotland.
More at the HeraldScotland site.
It really is about time Marine Scotland got to grips with this illegal activity – earlier on this year they didn’t act as the razor clam fishermen were working and landing their take at ports in the Solway and Ayrshire coast, even when most everyone in the local population was aware when and where it was happening and many people contact Marine Scotland to protest the activity.