Whitby fleet fined £122,800 for defying North Sea quotas


The once bustling fishing town of Whitby, North Yorkshire, has displayed no lack of courage amid diminishing North Sea cod stocks and new European quotas in recent years. Innovations have included Britain's first port-based sea fishermen's apprenticeships, introduced by a local trawlerman, Arnold Locker.

But the fishermen's latest strategy for making a living out of an industry which once employed hundreds of peoplelanded the captains of virtually the entire trawler fleet in court yesterday

In scenes unprecedented in fishing history, 10 captains - representing 90 per cent of Whitby's fleet - stood side by side in the dock at Hull Crown Court, where they were fined £122,800 for fiddling their books to hide the fact they were exceeding fishing quotas imposed by the European Commission to protect the North Sea's dwindling stocks. So many fishermen were in court that the jury box had to be used to accommodate them all. They pleaded guilty to 55 charges of not recording accurate accounts.

Among them was Mr Locker who, as chairman of the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations, is more accustomed to lobbying at Westminster than standing in court.

The court heard that the men's beam trawlers, which fish for cod, haddock and whiting in the North Sea and near Norway, were stuck in Whitby's picturesque harbour as a result of a government crackdown. Their response over three months in 2003 was to hide quantities from their books, while selling it at dockside auction.

The Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) became suspicious when recorded landings dropped by 35 per cent. Information was sought on four vessels but the net spread wider, said Simon Phillips, Defra's barrister. He claimed the amount of black market fish was worth £475,000, but the defendants admitted £149,000. Someone at the Whitby fish market was in on the act too, according to Mr Phillips, ensuring the illegal fish went undeclared.

Defra's fisheries officers boarded ships at sea, raided offices and seized computer zip drives, the court heard. At one point Captain Steven Veart hurled an officer's logbook into the sea from his vessel, Christina, at the Whitby quayside. He said he was annoyed "by a jobsworth, bureaucrat".

Ian Lawrie, representing the defendants, told the judge: "What you have here is the entire fishing fleet of Whitby. It is a sad reflection of the perilous state of the white fishing industry of a town. It is literally on its knees. How it got there is a long process." Whitby's fishermen enviously saw Scotland's £40m subsidy for its fishing industry and received none, he said.

The offences were not motivated by greed, Mr Lawrie added. "They were a commercial necessity."

Judge Simon Jack accepted that the men were trying to protect "a community, employment and a way of life" and that some earned as little as £8,000 a year. But he told them: "These regulation are in place to protect fish stocks which some say are near total collapse."

Individual fines ranged from £3,000 to £12,000.

Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Esteban Cambiasso makes it 3-3
premier league
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
people'I hated him during those times'
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleFirst memoir extracts show she 'felt pressured' into going out with the Sex Pistols manager
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late
Lewis Hamilton in action during the Singapore Grand Prix
Formula OneNico Rosberg retires after 14 laps
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam