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Skippers have already paid for black fish

THE SIX Shetland fishermen who admitted landing fish worth £15 million illegally are the first in Europe to have to pay back in quota what they failed to declare, according to the Shetland Fishermen’s Association.

SFA chief executive Hansen Black said the skippers had lost more than they had gained through lost quota, after an agreement was reached following the current investigation.

The Scottish government and the European Commissions agreed to withhold quota from the three vessels Serene, Charisma and Zephyr whose skippers were in the Glasgow high court on Thursday.

Other skippers face charges of illegally landing fish that are expected to come to court over the next few weeks and months.

“There has been a payback of over quota landings, which has cost the vessels much more than was ever gained out of the illegal landings and that is an unprecedented situation,” Mr Black said.

“There is no illegal fishery that has been uncovered anywhere in Europe that fish have had to be paid back as well as the skippers facing further action in the courts.”

At the time of the offences herring and mackerel were worth between £300 and £500 a tonne, which would mean that the amount of fish landed illegally by the three boats in court on Thursday would have been 30,000 to 50,000 tonnes.

Mr Black denied Thursday’s court case delivered a strong argument into the hands of Faroe and Iceland who have angered the Scottish industry by unilaterally increasing their quotas for mackerel this year.

He said that the industry had changed since these cases were uncovered in 2005 to the point where the mackerel fishery had attained Marine Stewardship Council accreditation.

“This shows the UK and Scottish government will make sure there is no benefit from overfishing. There has been a huge change in culture and now we have an industry which is fully compliant with the law and black fish landing has been completely eradicated.

“We have a very well managed fishery we can be proud of and that’s another reason we can’t allow Iceland and Faroe to ruin all the good work that’s been done.”