FOUR fishermen plead guilty to £8million worth of illegal landings when they appeared at the High Court in Edinburgh on Friday (January 6).
John Macleod (56), master of the Castlebay registered fishing vessels the ‘Charisma’ CY88 and the ‘Prowess’ CY720, and Michael Macleod (33), master of the ‘Charisma’ were charged with the ‘black fish’ fraud alongside 54 year old James Duthie, master of the Sunbeam, and Ian Buchan, master of the ‘Quantas’, also 54.
The offences, in contravention of sea fishing legislation, relate to a number of illegal landings of mackerel and herring at a fish factory in Peterhead, Aberdeenshire, between 2002 and 2005.
The four skippers falsely declared the quantity of fish they landed as a means of evading the annual fishing quota allocated to their vessel.
The court heard that during the three year period, John Macleod made 43 landings worth £1,159,761; and Michael Macleod a total of 34 landings worth £907,840.
Mr Duthie made 56 landings totalling £1,936,546, and Mr Buchan, 49 landings, worth £4,495,568.
Sentencing of the four was deferred until March 23
Speaking after the court hearing, Lindsey Miller, Head of the Serious and Organised Crime Division, said: “This prosecution of these individuals follows the conviction of seventeen other individuals and two limited companies which operated fish factories, in 2010 and 2011 for similar offences, and is part of an extensive and complex investigation which is continuing into other fish landings.
“The successful prosecution of these additional accused is a further example of effective joint working between Grampian Police and Northern Constabulary, the Serious and Organised Crime Division of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Services, and Marine Scotland. “We will continue working with police and other agencies to prosecute those individuals or organisations who flout the law for their personal gain.”
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.”