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ref date:26 May 1997 (ECON)
Britain plunders the seas

Peterhead fish market in Scotland sees overfilled boxes of fish not being weighed to make it look like the catch is within quota, no careful notes are taken to ensure that protected species and size limits are being observed.

Fisherman bypass inspectors in private sales and the result is fish quotas of all kinds are going unmarked and unregulated

"If an inspector should show up, the fisherman will simply declare the boxes he is landing," said one onlooker. "Once the skipper has unloaded his over-quota fish, he takes the rest to one of the larger ports, such as Peterhead, and offloads a legal catch."

The fish inspectors are hated and intimidated, the Sea Fish Authority does all it can to help but it is not enough.

Many fisherman say the quotas set by the EU are irresponsibly low , and that they cant make a living, black market fish selling is the only way they stay above water in payments on their botas and mortagages.

One senior inspector estimates that illegal fish landed is 50 per cent of the quota on pressured stocks such as cod and saithe.

  • The wholesale trade
  • Some quite big companies are not viable without illegal landings. One processor of mackerel on the docks at Peterhead, a member of the Free Kirk, was referred to as a man who would not handle black fish but the understanding was that just about everybody else did.

  • The boat builders
  • Boatbuilding is booming, but the boats catch protected quota species instead of deep sea fish.

    Bank managers and fisherman alike are awre that black market catches are the only way to finance these new boats, but quotas are broken and species continue to be endangered.

  • The politicians
  • The Tory party turned a very blind eye to the "UK" quota breaking and blamed foreign fisherman, they blamed the common fisheries policy, however, its clear that UK fisherman are equally yo blame.

  • What can be done?
  • What can Labour do to save Britain's fish and protect fish stocks for the future, an abrupt end would cause an instantaneous revolt from fisherman.

    Boats could be forced to land at specific ports and have careful market controls at the quayside, larger boats could be tracked by satellite.

    The fact is that the fisherman, market buyers and government know their is a problem but seem incapable or unwilling to deal with the issue. They need to balance the needs of the stocks and environment with fishermans livlihoods.