Spanish fishing firms fined £1.62m


Two Spanish fishing firms received some of the largest fines in British maritime history today after breaking strict EU quotas.

Hijos De Vidal Bandin SA from Spain and its subsidiary company, UK-registered Sealskill Limited, were handed a £1.62 million total penalty after being found to have lied in logbooks and landing declarations to disguise the amount of fish caught illegally.

The judge described the companies' actions as "systematic, repeated and cynical".

Judge Graham Cottle added: "It involved flagrant, repeated and long-term abuse of the regulations, carried out by the masters of both vessels with full knowledge, complicity and direction of the Spanish registered company.

"It was targeting what was, at the time, an endangered species of fish."

Two Spanish boat masters - Jose Antonio Perez Garcia and Jose Manuel Martinez Sanchez - and two company directors - Manuel Vidal Suarez and Maria Dolores Vidal Marino - admitted flouting European fishing quota laws in British waters.

It is estimated those involved in the plot helped boost the companies' collective finances by more than half a million pounds.

The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) welcomed the penalty, the biggest in its history, while environmental campaigners Greenpeace said the case underlined the underhand tactics of some of the "rich, industrial-sized fleets" at the expense of "law-abiding, smaller" fishermen.

Truro Crown Court in Cornwall heard how the scam was uncovered in July 2010 off the Isles of Scilly when an unlogged haul of fish was discovered on the Coyo Tercero, owned by Hijos De Vidal Bandin SA and skippered by Garcia.

Officers from the MMO investigated and found the master had been fiddling logbooks over how much he had caught.

References in the logbooks to a second vessel, the O'Genita - owned by Sealskill Limited and skippered by Sanchez - prompted a full MMO probe.

They found significant catches of much sought-after hake had been illegally and misleadingly passed from one vessel to the other after being caught off the coast of Scotland, known as transshipping. It was destined for fishing markets in northern Spain, the court was told.

The judge said: "These serious breaches of regulations came to light on a routine boarding of the Coyo Tercero. The fish found on board did not tally with the official log. Notebooks recorded the actual quantity of fish landed."

Earlier this year, the four entered pleas to a total of nine charges of falsifying logbooks and handling declarations between August 2008 and August 2010.

Suarez and Marino, company directors of Hijos De Vidal Bandin SA and Sealskill Limited respectively, entered pleas on behalf of their companies and for themselves as individuals.

The skippers and companies pleaded guilty to all of the charges relating to falsifying logbooks and transshipping.

Brian Lett, QC, defending all the parties, apologised on behalf of his clients and said they were remorseful.

The judge said the companies had incurred losses since the incident, after two vessels were temporarily impounded pending the investigation.

He added: "It would be wrong to impose a fine that would effectively put the Spanish company out of business."

In addition to the corporate penalties, the two skippers were each ordered to pay £5,000 in fines.

MMO lead investigation officer Danny Poulding said today's total corporate penalty, which includes a bill for £195,000 in costs paid equally between the two firms, is the largest in its history.

Speaking outside court, he added: "The MMO is very pleased that the court has recognised this as a serious offence.

"As the judge said, this was a cynical abuse of the system and I am hoping it will send quite a clear deterrent that this will not be tolerated."

Ariana Densham, oceans campaigner for Greenpeace, called on Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon to "address the problems" within current EU policy.

She said: "The system that allowed this to happen needs to be fixed. This case is not a one-off. It's a symptom of Europe's farcical fishing rules. The Vidals were permitted to fish under UK flags, using UK quota, and receive huge EU subsidies, with none of the proceeds ever feeding back into the UK economy.

"Meanwhile, the UK's sustainable inshore fishermen are struggling to get access to quota and Government support. The system is skewed in favour of rich, powerful, industrial-scale fishing companies, when really it should be supporting low impact, sustainable fishermen."

All four defendants had been allowed to return to Spain ahead of today's sentencing.


Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist / Physio / Osteopath

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for o...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Sales Executive - Contract Hire

£35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leader provides c...

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her