With the parlous state of many of our fish stocks being well recorded and constantly discussed (though not a great deal of concrete action is taken). It beggars belief that the courts do not seem to take the misrecording of fish landings as a serious offence. What sort of message is being sent by fining transgressors far less than the profit they made on the fish they landed? Quite obvious to me . . . fish stocks aren’t important and crime does pay. It strikes me that commercial fishermen are still seen as latter day Capt. Birdseye’s, struggling to make a living from the sea against all the odds, and not highly skilled operators of multi-million pound trawlers fitted with h-tech giszmos that help them find the fish. I’ll bet there wasn’t even a proceeds of crime investigation!
The question some may ask is, ‘Well, is it important that a few more fish were caught than they recorded?’. Well, leaving aside the matter of the thousands of extra pounds they made . . . and obviously also didn’t pay tax on . . . fisheries management is an inexact science where estimates are made on the size of fish stocks. If the statistics on catches are flawed, because fishermen like the ones referred to are deliberately not reporting fish, then what hope is there that fisheries can be helped to recover. These criminals aren’t just making extra cash at other ‘honest’ commercial fishermens expense they’re possibly affecting the future of fish stocks. These guys were caught . . . how many more are getting away with it. And some with even bigger profits.
Some £63 million was salted away somewhere and even after the £0.75 million fines were paid, there was a handsome profit of £62.25 million. We’re into the realms of banking bonuses here but at least the bankers are taxed on theirs!