SIX Shetland pelagic fishermen pled guilty to earning £15 million from illegally landed herring and mackerel at the High Court in Glasgow on Thursday.
The case follows a raid on Lerwick’s Shetland Catch fish processing factory in 2005 following a major investigation by the Scottish fisheries protection officers.
Shetland Catch also admitted assisting the skippers in making the undeclared landings.
The six skippers work on three pelagic trawlers operating out of the island of Whalsay.
Serene skipper Robert John Polson, aged 47, 17 Breiwick Road, Lerwick admitted making 46 landings of fish worth £3,682,000.
Fellow Serene skipper Thomas Sutherland Eunson, aged 55, of Westwinds, Symbister, Whalsay admitted 18 landings worth £1,457,243.
Third Serene skipper Allen Magnus Anderson, aged 54, Solvei, Symbister, Whalsay admitted four landings of £442,168.
Charisma skipper David Kay Hutchison, aged 69, Ankerhus, Hillhead, Symbister, Whalsay admitted 49 landings worth £3,698,433.
Zephyr skipper John Arthur Irvine, aged 66, Braeside, Symbister, Whalsay admitted 56 landings worth £3,658,981.
Fellow Zephyr skipper Allister Robertson Irvine, aged 61, Karinya, Symbister, Whalsay, admitted 25 landings worth £1,828,981.
Five other fishing skippers have been charged with illegal landings as a result of the same investigation.
Speaking after the hearing, Scott Pattison, the director of operations at the Crown Office, said: “This prosecution is part of an extensive and complex investigation undertaken jointly by Grampian Police and Northern Constabulary under the direction of the National Casework Division of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service with assistance from Marine Scotland.
“The investigation is continuing into other landings but the successful prosecution of these accused is a clear example of successful working between the law enforcement agencies involved. This is not a victimless crime. The consequences of overfishing on this scale are far reaching and the impact on fish stocks and the marine environment is potentially devastating.
“The legislation is to protect the marine environment for the good of all and to safeguard the fishing industry. We will continue working with police and other agencies to prosecute those individuals or organisations who disregard it for their personal gain.”
Detective superintendent Gordon Gibson of Grampian Police, who led this investigation, said: “This has been an extremely complex and lengthy investigation by Grampian Police and Northern Constabulary. It has required many, many months of meticulously detailed work by my officers. As can be seen from the pleas tendered today, this was criminality at an extremely high level.
“It has been a clear example of extended and extremely effective partnership working between two police forces, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and Marine Scotland. The pleas tendered today reflect most favourably on the dedication of all the staff involved.”
Cephas Ralph, head of compliance at Marine Scotland said: “In reaching a significant milestone today in this inquiry which began in 2005, I would like to acknowledge the dedication and commitment shown by my investigating officers who have worked tirelessly to bring these serious matters before the courts. I am also, extremely grateful for the long-running assistance of police colleagues and the guidance given by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.”