£15 million of unfortunate mackerel

SIX skippers have admitted making illegal landings worth almost £15 million in the biggest scam in the history of Scotland’s fishing industry.

The six included – David Hutchison and  Robert Polson – vice chairman & director of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association who admitted 49 landings totaling £3,698K and 46 landings totaling £3,682K respectively.

The others were Thomas Eunson (18 landings / £1,457K), Allen Anderson (4 landings / £442K), John Irvine (56 landings / £3,658K) and Allister Irvine (25 landings / £1,828K).

All admitted providing false information to the then Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency between January 2002 and March 2005.

The landings were made at the premises of Shetland Catch in Lerwick – a joint venture involving the Lerwick Port Authority, the Shetland pelagic fleet and factory staff, who also pled guilty to assisting the skippers in making the undeclared landings.

A spokesman for the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) said: "These unfortunate incidents occurred a long time ago and the industry has already paid the penalty in the form of reduced quotas in the intervening years." and insisted that the Shetland incidents had “absolutely no bearing” on the current situation facing the mackerel fishery.

These were not unfortunate incidents – in total there were nearly 200 illegal landings.

For years the commercial sector have been saying scientists have no idea of the real situation of stocks – that could in part be due to the fact that they relied on the commercial sector to honestly report their catches.

Detective Superintendent Gordon Gibson, of Grampian Police, said: “This has been an extremely complex and lengthy investigation….It has required many months of meticulously detailed work by my officers. “This was criminality at an extremely high level.”

At the same time as the six skippers were admitting their guilt to a High Court judge in Glasgow, Scottish Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead was attempting to negotiate a compromise with the Faroe Islands and Iceland, after two weeks of squabbling which culminated in a blockade of Peterhead harbour.

His task in seeking a diplomatic solution has been made infinitely more difficult by the actions of the Shetland Six, for they have given the Icelandic and Faroese the ammunition to discredit pleas for fair play. Rarely have the actions of so few jeopardized the future wellbeing of so many.




Category: Commercial

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