Four plead guilty to over-fishing worth more than £8 million

At the High Court in Edinburgh on Friday four fishermen pled guilty to offences of making false declarations regarding more than £8 million of fish that they landed.

The offences, in contravention of sea fishing legislation, relate to a number of illegal landings of mackerel and herring at Peterhead between 2002 and 2005, in respect of which the vessel skippers falsely declared the quantity of fish they landed as a means of evading the annual fishing quota allocated to their vessel.

The four accused, their vessels, and the amounts for their undeclared catches are:

• James Duthie (54), master of the Sunbeam- 56 landings worth £1,936,546.13

• Ian Buchan (54), master of the Quantus- 49 landings worth £4,495,568;

• John MacLeod (56), master of the Charisma CY88 and the Prowess CY720- 43 landings worth £1,159,761.70;

• Michael MacLeod (33), master of the Charisma CY88- 34 landings worth £907,840.50

The landings were made at a fish factory in Peterhead, Aberdeenshire.

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 Service, 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.”

Detective Superintendent Gordon Gibson of Grampian Police, who led this investigation, said: “The pleas tendered are another positive example of the hard work, dedication and partnership approach by all involved in this investigation.”

Cephas Ralph, Head of Compliance at Marine Scotland said: “Illegal fishing is a crime committed against the marine environment and the many honest fishermen who abide by the regulations and fish responsibly.”

Sentence on the four men was deferred until March 23.