NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Fishermen told to pay £1.2m for black fish landings

Image caption The offences were committed between 2002 and 2005

A total of 10 fishing skippers have been ordered to pay almost £1.2m, after admitting their involvement in a so-called black fish operation.

The group previously pled guilty to the illegal landing of undeclared catches at two processors, Fresh Catch and Alexander Buchan.

At the High Court in Edinburgh, they were were given fines and confiscation orders totalling £1,194,447.

The offences were committed between 2002 and 2005.

Following the court hearing, prosecutors said the skippers had used devious methods to try to evade fishing quota restrictions in the scam - said to be worth about £23m - with no respect for the consequences.

Those dealt with in court were:

  • John Smith, 37, the Alert: confiscation order of £150,000 and fine of £40,000.
  • James Smith, 54, the Alert: confiscation order of £30,000 and fine of £10,000.
  • Allan Simpson, 43, the Christina S: confiscation order of £361,621.
  • Ernest Simpson, 65, the Christina S: confiscation order of £362,826.
  • Ian Buchan, 55, the Quantus: fine of £100,000.
  • James Duthie, 55, the Sunbeam: fine of £35,000.
  • Oswald McRonald, 64, the Quantus: fine of £12,000.
  • John MacLeod, 57, the Prowess and the Charisma: fine of £50,000.
  • Michael MacLeod, 33, the Prowess: fine of £8,000.
  • Stephen Bellany, 49, the Unity: fine of £35,000.

Judge Lord Turnbull said he took into account that, in each case, no attempt was made to disguise the actual income acquired and tax was paid.

He also noted the fishermen regretted their involvement and the embarrassment brought to them and their families.

Lindsey Miller, head of the Crown Office serious and organised crime division, said: "These individuals used incredibly complex and devious methods to under declare their fish landings.

"They had no regard for the law or for the consequences such large scale overfishing would have on fish stocks, the environment or the hard working fishermen trying to make an honest living in the industry."

Grampian Police Det Supt Gordon Gibson, who led the police investigation into the case, added: "This is another example of individuals amassing huge sums of money by their serious and organised criminal acts.

"Make no mistake - these men made a conscious decision to commit these crimes and to continue to do so over a protracted period."

Allan and Ernest Simpson will be sentenced at the High Court in Edinburgh in September, while proceedings against Fresh Catch have also been continued until that time.

Six of the fishermen who were fined have already been handed confiscation orders of more than £1.3m million between them.

Earlier this month, Shetland Catch was hit with a £1.5m confiscation order and fined £150,000, after the Lerwick company admitted assisting vessel skippers in making undeclared landings.

The convictions were the result of a seven-year investigation, Operation Trawler, launched to investigate suspicious about the widespread illegal landing of fish within the pelagic fleet.

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