North Sea trawlers face crackdown on black economy

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The Independent Online
THE Government moved yesterday to crack down on "black fish" - the vast tonnages of cod, haddock and other species caught over and above quotas which are jeopardising North Sea stocks. Ministers intend to bring in a new system where large trawlers can only land their catch at named fishing ports during certain times of day.

Any boat not complying would be breaching the conditions of its fishing licence, and be liable for prosecution and a fine of up to pounds 50,000. The new rules are intended to end the practice of trawlers slipping into small ports, to offload their over-quota fish on to refrigerated lorries without any auction or declaration of the catch.

The practice makes a mockery of European Union attempts to stop the chronic overfishing of the North Sea. The quantities involved vary from year to year along with stocks and market prices, but it has been estimated that for some species illegal catches are half as large as those allowed under the EU North Sea quotas.

The new rules which the Government is consulting on cover vessels over 20 metres long, a minority of the UK fishing fleet, but responsible for more than half the total fish landed. They will have to land their fish at 32 ports, mostly in Scotland, during certain hours.