Three County Down fishermen have been ordered to pay back more than £1m which they netted through a fish quota scam. They were convicted at Liverpool Crown Court in January of landing fish stocks in excess of their permitted quotas. On Monday, a judge at the same court said the trio and two Kilkeel-based fish-selling firms had made more than £15m from this criminal conduct. The fishermen were given six months to either pay the money to the Assets Recovery Agency or face imprisonment.
The Marine and Fisheries Agency brought the prosecutions after the detection of inaccurate fish-landing declarations involving 12 fishing boats. After the convictions in January, the Assets Recovery Agency began investigating whether the men benefited from under-declaring fishing catches at Kilkeel and Whitehaven, Cumbria - a practice commonly known as landing "black" fish. Charles Leslie McBride, 54, of Cromlech Park, Mountain Road, his 35-year-old son Charles Hubert McBride, of Irvington Park and Leslie Clifford Girvan, 64, of Rooney Road, had admitted several specimen charges in January. Representatives for two companies - McBride Fishing Company Limited, of which the McBrides are joint directors and Kilkeel Fish Selling Company Limited, of which Girvan is director - had also pleaded guilty.
The judge found on Monday that the five defendants had illegally made a total of £15,115,204:
He said the defendants should pay back a total of £1,075,056:
"Following a series of police raids on Scottish fish factories in late 2005, more than 40,000 tonnes of mackerel, conservatively worth at least €48m, was reported by the UK authorities to have been landed illegally by some of the largest Irish pelagic fishing trawlers over a period of five years,"
In January 2007 in a pre election splurge of promises by Fianna Fail, the same fishermen gave a cautious welcome to the biggest State investment throwaway ever made to wealthy fishing interests in this lucrative sector.
The €597m plan that aims to make the "struggling" Irish industry "sustainable and competitive" will also provide incentives for fishermen to leave the industry over the next six years. More golden handshakes.
The Government is targeting a removal of at least 40pc of the major white-fish fleet from the seas, while- incredibly- also proposing massive investment in the fish farming industry.!!
The €212m earmarked for aquaculture highlights where much of the future emphasis will lie, and it is hoped that fish farming will proved one-third of fish production in the future.
"The bedrock of the industry is the state of the fish stocks in our waters, and the Government is committed to working nationally and at EU level to seek to ensure that the stocks are managed sustainably and rebuilt," said Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said at the launch of 'Steering a New Course' .
"Beyond that, we need to restructure the sector to put it on a sustainable development path." said Bert. Some €334m of public funds will be made available to match private sector funding of €263m.
Ireland is to be marketed as "the seafood island" under the plan, and Mr Ahern said the plan would help to ensure the "viability of coastal communities." God love those part time and full time salmon predators and tax dodgers.
The Irish Fisherman's Organisation said it was impressed by the scope of the plans The package was also given a cautious welcome by the Federation of Irish Fishermen, who said the details of the plan had yet to be hammered out.
Jason O'Brien(Irish Independent)
Gardaí have referred a file on their investigation into alleged fraud within the fishing industry to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP),in October 2005.
The file covers inquiries which extended along the west coast but focused on Killybegs, Co Donegal.
The investigation also dealt with allegations of collusion involving officials of the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.
The Garda investigation into alleged fraudulent landings and alleged "collusion" with department officials was initiated last October by Minister for the Marine Noel Dempsey.
It will however probably end up on fruitless tree tops,like Bertie,s enquiry into Ray Burke,s criminality.
THE Government finally brought in the much delayed Fisheries Bill in February 2006.However it agreed a major last-minute concession to rebel backbenchers to ensure the smooth passage of the controversial Bill through the Oireachtas. The Bill was controversial because it was aimed at curbing the widespread lawlessness and illegal quota busting activities of the irish fishing fleet, because of threaths of massive fines on the irish taxpayer by the E.U. if some order was not introduced into the prevailing anarchy in the industry.
In a move which will be portrayed as a significant climbdown by opponents, Communications Marine and Natural Resources Minister Noel Dempsey, told an emergency meeting of Fianna Fáil TDs last night that he will bring forward extra legislation to introduce a system of "administrative" penalties for technical and minor fishery offences.
The promise was also referred to in a letter from Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to several Fianna Fáil TDs yesterday.
The contentious Sea Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Bill has caused bitter debate among Fianna Fáil TDs from coastal constituencies and prompted a sustained backbench campaign against proposed measures to criminalise illegal over-fishing.
The so called "administrative penalties" legislation will emasculate the new Fisheries Bill,make money for lawyers,and ensure "business as usual for the rogue fishermen who are systematically violating the E.E.U.quota system.
Fianna Fail have been handing out money to rouge fishermen, like snuff at a wake- and causing wholesale chaos in the industry. If my reading of the following statements is correct and the information is accurate huge sums of taxpayers money have been spent on grants to build new vessels which then results in overfishing and excess fleet capacity.Now Bertie is spending another fortune in grants to ease out of the business the older skippers whose rusty old boats are no longer seaworthy. And we thought all our money was being handed to poor farmers.?
The Dail;Friday, February 11, 2005
Fishermen of the South East Duped by Govt (according to - Perry)
The Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources may have destroyed the Scallop fishing industry in the South and East of the country through a gross miscalculation of the capacity of the Scallop fleet, which was agreed by the Irish Government and has resulted in a huge decrease in the permissible days at sea allowed under EU Regulation, according to Fine Gael’s Spokesperson on the Marine, John Perry TD.
"It has been brought to my attention that the Commission based the capacity of the fleet on figures, supplied by the Department, on fishing activity in the period 1998 to 2002. However, this does not take into account the growth of the fleet since then - growth that the Department itself encouraged. As a result, although the fleet contains vessels that could fish for scallop for 250 days per year, the total permissible days may now be as little as an average of 57 days. What is worse, it appears that Minister Pat the Cope Gallagher and his Department continued to grant licenses to fish for scallop far in excess of the allocation awarded by the EU. As a result, the regulations allow for the viability of only three to four vessels out of a total fleet of 17 vessels targeting scallop. We now have a crazy situation where fishermen were encouraged to borrow large sums to finance new vessels, and they cannot viably take those vessels out to sea. Only four weeks ago, the Department granted a new license to a fisherman, allowing him to invest in a replacement vessel at great expense - a vessel he cannot now use to fish for scallop. !
"Since these vessels are now part of the EU fleet, the cost of bringing a vessel up to mandatory safety standards is between €100,000 and €200,000. The debt levels of essentially redundant vessels are mind-boggling. Minister Gallagher must now provide a viable solution to protect the future of an industry that is the backbone of the South East economy and which directly employs 250 people. For starters, he must allocate an increase in Scallop Effort for this non-quota species to make these vessels viable, or; provide the necessary financial assistance to allow fishermen to decommission their vessels.
"This Minister is presiding over the complete and utter devastation of Irish fishing. From the North East to the South West, he has preached about the protection of coastal communities while presiding over their demise. I am very disappointed that he has not even gone to the South East to visit the fishermen on the ground. I implore the Minister to make a statement on this matter outlining exactly what he intends to do to sort this sorry mess out".
MORE than 75pc of fish stocks in Irish waters are at dangerously low levels because of overfishing.
Some species are on the brink of extinction because of the "dramatic" decline in their numbers, according to the damning state of the Irish environment report.
Many fish species, including cod and hake, are being caught at unsustainable levels.
There is now concern that 47 out of 62 commercially targeted fish stocks in Irish waters are over-exploited.
"Many of these stocks are now outside safe biological levels," warns the Environment in Focus 2006 report.
Cod and hake stocks have plummeted by 46pc and 43pc respectively in the period 1999-2004.
Plans to try and rebuild the stocks have failed and "there is little evidence" of increased numbers. But it may even be too late, according to the report.
It warns: "In a regime where stock size is low and exploitation is high, there is a high risk that management may not be sufficient to prevent the collapse of stock."
Perry may have had something here,as,later in July 2005, Bertie announced his decided to allocate 45 million taxpayers euros to decomission the oldest most unseaworthy hulks in the business.
However on the issue of criminality, it seems Perry owes O'Dea an apology on the issue of policing the 'law-unto-themselves' fishermen communities, in the west coast of Ireland;
'The Minister for Defence, Willie O’ Dea, falsely accused Irish Fishermen of being less law-abiding than their European counterparts and should apologise' said Fine Gael Spokesman on the Marine, John Perry T.D. In the Dáil , Minister O’Dea stated that "Irish vessels have proportionately been subject to more warnings and detention arising from Naval Service inspections than their numbers should warrant."
"When challenged on this he went on to say "unfortunately statistics show that they are boarded proportionately more often than should be indicated by their numbers." It is also fact that they have been fishing up to five times their quota of species such as Mackerel with complete impunity.
John Perry countered, "The Minister might take a cursory look at the statistical data from the European Commission for 2002, the latest year for which figures are available. These show that, on the issue of Serious Infringements of the Common Fisheries Policy, Ireland ranks eleventh out of thirteen countries. The figures clearly show that the Minister was completely incorrect. He must not only retract his previous statements, but apologise to the fishermen of Ireland. It is the least they deserve for his outrageous slur."
However O'Dea was ahead of the game on this issue as we will see;
July 2005: A GARDA investigation has found extensive illegal overfishing in every big Irish harbour along the west coast. Files on six of the companies involved will be sent to the director of public prosecutions (DPP) in the coming weeks.Senior gardai involved in the investigation say that boats were landing as much as three times their legal quota and not reporting it. "In some instances it appears to be quite excessive," a senior detective said. "We are looking at people across the board, including what would be considered the bigger boats and industries.
Revenue also returned from our fishing ports countrywide with a massive trawl of undeclared income tax ,going back for decades. How could these people have been in receipt of massive shipbuilding/buying subsidies with no proper scrutiny of their illegal activities.?
"We searched Killybegs, Dingle, Ros A Mhil and Castletownbere and there will be files on people from all of them going to the DPP. They’ve been fishing up future quotas."
The Salmon farming Industry,is in no less a mess;
Salmon farmers welcome EU curbs on fish imports.February 2005.
Scottish and Irish salmon farmers have welcomed European Union curbs on cheap imported fish from Norway, Chile, Iceland and the Faroe islands. Lewis Macdonald, Scotland's deputy environment and rural development minister, said: "Our salmon producers have been suffering since 2003. Large volumes of salmon continue to be imported into the EU where they are sold at prices below their cost of production. "This unfair competition disadvantages our industry. We have been forced to intervene to ensure that our salmon industry receives the protection it deserves."
However,Denmark appeals restrictions on Norwegian salmon
Denmark has appealed against the import restrictions on Norwegian salmon recently introduced by the EU Commission. The Danish processing industry rely on the import of Norwegian salmon, and many jobs are now threatened. In a press release the Danish Industry Minister, Bendt Bendtsen is critical of the EU Commission's decision to introduce a minimum price and quotas on Norwegian farmed salmon.
'These measures are introduced solely for political reasons in order to assist a small number of unprofitable Scottish and Irish fish farmers,' the Danish minister says. 'This is harmful to a large number of companies within the EU, the customers and free global trade,' Bendtsen says. 'We are pleased with the fact that the Danes have brought the case before the EU Council of Ministers,' says Norway's Foreign Minister, Jan Petersen.
He says several EU nations were against the introduction of restrictions against Norwegian salmon
In the summer of 2005, ten thousand objections were lodged, including a comprehensive submission to the Joint Oireachtas Committee of the Marine by the ‘Stop Salmon Drift Nets Now’ organisation. Pissing against the wind..
This proposal detailed every aspect of the issue and spelt out the methodology of a €25 million buyout over a five-year period in a 22-page document. This included a provision of €6.25m by anglers over that period funded by a €50 increase in the recreational salmon fishing licence. The minister’s response was that he had yet to hear from anybody with serious proposals about buying out drift net fishermen.
What happened next was disastrous. The drift netting season runs from the beginning of June to the end of July.
The salmon drift nets returned a catch of less than 50% of the 2004 figure - not much more than 70,000 fish. Clearly this, to say the least, is not viable and is economic and environmental madness.
However it is heartening to see that fianna Fail are not buckling under to the demands of salmon fishermen in Donegal and elswhere, and offering to buy them out , now that they have virtually destroyed the stock of wild salmon. Bertie is to be commended,as it is rare that Fianna Fail refuses to throw money at their supporters in the agricultural or fishing industry.Who knows,perhaps he will even tackle the powerful semi-state unions next.!
Maybe he is spending so much money compensating the McBrearty clan, that the cupboard is bare.?
THE chairman of the West Kerry Lobster Co-op has accused the Department of the Marine of promoting policies that will put an end to inshore fishing.
Seánie Johnson, from Baile na nGall, said he believes the Department is not interested in what fishermen have to say when it comes to stock management. He said the Department's decision to increase the number of potting licenses by more than 50 per cent will force many fishermen out of business.
“I'm trying to get out of this business because of the way the Department have acted and the issuing of the new potting licenses which will have a negative effect on the shellfish industry. I've been fishing for the past 35 years and I see the future looking very bleak,” he said.
“We had 1,300 licenses in this country and now that's been increased by 700 more so now we have 2,000 boats fishing for shellfish along the coast. The figures are kind of scary. If you take it that each boat will have 500 pots and multiply that by 2,000 that gives you one million pots fishing along the coast. The stocks aren't there to sustain it. The pots cost €47 each so that's an investment of €47m and trying to get that money back will be difficult,” he said.
“The Department didn't consult with us even though we asked them to. A lot of people who got these licences had a licence prior to this but they sold them and were supposed to get out of fishing. But the Department decided to facilitate them again and issued them with new licences. That's the thing that
sticks in people's craws more than anything. Those people might have got €50,000 to get out and now they're back again,” he stated.
“The salmon fishing is under threat and I could have survived on shellfish prior to the issuing of these extra 700 licences but now I'm wasting my time. If drift-netting is banned many more vessels, maybe up to 200, will be fishing lobsters and crabs. Potting licences allow you to fish anywhere off the coast of Ireland. The co-op has no control over the fishing grounds. We notched thousands of lobsters to conserve stocks over the past 10 years. Now these people are going to reap the benefits of the co-op's work. A lot of fishermen are totally disgruntled and thinking of packing it all in,” he declared.
“The licences have almost all been issued now and the co-ops can't do anyrthing about it. We've pointed out these problems to the Department but they seem to have their own agenda. They don't listen to fishermen. I honestly think that these people in the Department, who are earning big money, will put an end to inshore fishing,” Mr Johnson said.
© The Kerryman
. Failure by Fianna Fail to collect coastline rents costing millions
GOVERNMENT incompetence in collecting rents for leasing the country’s coastline is costing taxpayers millions of euro. A report by the State’s financial watchdog, the Comptroller and Auditor General, has sparked concern over the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources’ ability to enforce payment due on foreshore licenses. These cover the use of land and seabed between the line of high water of medium tides and the 12-mile territorial sea limits, tidal rivers and estuaries. Of 186 rents scheduled to be reviewed between 2001 and 2003, just 18 were completed. The rent value of these increased from €150,000 to €495,000. Green Party TD Eamon Ryan estimates the State is losing out on €5 million a year in market-rate rent that should be collected, but is not. The C&AG’s report found that even if rents have been increased, it does not mean they are forthcoming.
"Many clients simply continue to pay at the old rate, or refuse to pay at all. It appears the department does not pursue an enforcement policy in the case of clients who do not accept revised valuations," it said. Mr Ryan called for an immediate overhaul of a system which covers 1,384 licenses and leases: "The level of compliance is very low, so it seems people can just do whatever they want and nothing happens to them." His party colleague Dan Boyle TD said "tens of millions" of euro has been lost by the failure to collect up-to-date rents.
More fishing cheats;
File on fishing fraud inquiry goes to DPP