Newlyn black fishing case: nominal £1 fines for 45 charges

Despite the old adage, it seems that crime does pay… at least if you are the Stevenson family of Newlyn.

Cod - Newlyn black fishing case: nominal £1 fines for 45 charges

Cod - The Stevenson family were fined £1 for each of the 45 charges that they were found guilty of

As reported by the BBC, the family, who operate fishing trawlers in Cornwall, were prosecuted for routinely landing illegal fish.

Not only were they landing species they had no quotas for, but they were doing so by passing them off as other species, so it was all pre-meditated and well-orchestrated.

They also conveniently ran the auctions where the fish are sold, and falsified the records of what fish had been sold to match what the skippers said they landed.

And it was also profitable - it’s estimated that £4m worth of fish were landed illegally. All the more galling that the firm is run by Elizabeth Stevenson, who was the former president of the National Federation of Fisheries Organisations.

But we can take solace in the fact that they were caught and prosecuted. They were found guilty of a total of 45 charges. And they have been fined accordingly… or so the judge seems to think.

On top of paying legal costs (£66,000) and being ordered to pay back £710,000, they have just been fined for the offences. But the total fine of the actual fine was £45. Yes, £45, I didn’t misplace the decimal point or under-report anything. One measly pound for every charge for which they were found guilty.

Just to set that in context: they profited by over £4 million… and are being punished by getting to keep over £3.2 million.

Whilst some may shrug their shoulders and say, “Well, it’s all Europe’s fault,” they knew what they were doing, and they were trying to get around the system - the system that is of course there because of concerns over dwindling fish stocks and over-fishing.

Had they been trying to use their (clearly) considerable influence to make a point about a problem with discards, I would applaud them. Had they been making a point about destructive fishing methods like beam-trawling being unacceptable (and they would know all about beam-trawlers), then I would have sympathy.

But the truth is, it was all about making money, and to hell with the environmental considerations. These are the real pirates of Penzance but there is nothing romantic about it.

This makes me very angry, and you should be too. They are over-fishing stocks that belong to all of us. This is your money. These are your fish.

There is also a huge amount of irony in Elizabeth Stevenson’s response that, “It’s not going to be easy to find this sum of money. It’s huge.”

  • Willie MacKenzie is part of Greenpeace’s Ocean Campaign. This blog post originally appeared on the Greenpeace UK website.


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