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Siz more skippers admit huge black fish landings

SENTENCE on six Shetland fishermen has been deferred until February next year after they pled  guilty to making false declarations of fish landings worth more than £15 million when they appeared before the High Court in Edinburgh, on Monday.

The over quota landings of mackerel and herring were all made at the Shetland Catch pelagic fish factory, in Lerwick, between 2002 and 2005.

The six skippers work on four different pelagic trawlers, all based on the island of Whalsay.

Laurence Anderson Irvine, aged 64, master of the pelagic trawler Antares admitted 77 landings worth £5,627,139.

Master of the Research, Gary Williamson, aged 51, pled guilty to 31 landings worth £1,993,787.

William Andrew Williamson, aged 63, also master of the Research, admitted 57 landings with a total value of £3,604,769.

The master of the Adenia, George Andrew Henry, aged 59, admitted 16 landings worth £1,545,461.

Finally, John William Stewart, aged 55, and Colin Andrew Leask, aged 37, both masters of the Antarctic, admitted 41 landings worth £1,049,251and 13 landings worth £1,427,511respectively.

Shetland Catch had previously pled guilty to assisting the skippers in making these undeclared landings.

Speaking after the court hearing, Scott Pattison, the director of operations at the Crown Office, said overfishing was not a victimless crime.

“This prosecution of these individuals follows the conviction of eight others in August and October, for similar offences, and is part of an extensive and complex investigation which is continuing into other fish landings.

“The ramifications of overfishing on such a scale are extremely serious, due to the potentially devastating impact for the marine environment and the fishing industry itself.”

Cephas Ralph, head of compliance at Marine Scotland, added: “Marine Scotland is determined to secure a sustainable future for the sea fishing industry and the coastal communities they support.  Illegal fishing is a crime committed against the marine environment and the many honest fishermen who abide by the regulations and fish responsibly.”

The six men will appear before the High Court for sentencing on 14 February 2011.