Sunday, 19 January 2014

Black Fish

I was amazed to read in the Sunday Times that members of a Scottish fishing family retain a big interest in the UK's fishing quotas despite being part of a £63 million 'black fish' scam. 

Now that seems completely ridiculous to me - a bit like putting Count Dracula in charge of the nation's blood transfusion service.

Skippers in £63m fish scam land big quota

By Jon Ungoed-Thomas

MEMBERS of a Scottish fishing family convicted of secretly landing millions of pounds of illegally caught herring and mackerel are some of the biggest holders of fishing quota in Britain, it has been revealed.

The four millionaire skippers were accused of “absolutely staggering” greed in a case in 2012. Police said they were part of a £63m “black fish” scam that was “serious, organised and criminal”.

Andrew, William, Robert and Peter Tait were fined for making undeclared landings of £1.5m each.

Detective Superintendent Gordon Gibson, who led the investigation, said after the hearing:

“These four men were an organised crime group who committed crimes for huge financial gain over a prolonged period. They chose to put their own greed ahead of the law.”

It has now emerged that their Klondyke Fishing Company of Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, is one of the biggest holders of fishing rights in the country.

One of its three vessels, the Chris Andra, has the third largest holding in Britain.

The details of the holdings have emerged in the first published register of the allocation of Britain’s fishing quota.

The latest company accounts show that Klondyke, which has 13 employees, made a profit before tax of £18m in the year to June 30, 2012, on turnover of £31.8m.

The large turnover was attributed to “an increased quota allocation and market prices for mackerel and herring”. The net worth of the company was £34.6m, with the value of the quota and vessel licences estimated at £8.79m.

The “black fish” scam, in which all three Klondyke trawlers participated, was described by a High Court judge as an “episode of shame” for the Scottish fishing industry. It involved more than 20 skippers from several companies landing fish in excess of quotas.

An investigation, launched in 2005 because of discrepancies between declared landings and actual earnings from fish sales, discovered that underground pipes and concealed weighing scales were used to land illicit fish.

In June 2012, the four members of the Tait family admitted failing to declare landings. They were fined a total of £155,000 for breaches of European regulations.

Greenpeace said this weekend the case highlighted the need for radical reform.

Klondyke said none of the Tait family was available for comment because they were at sea.