OWNERS of one of the world’s largest trawlers have been fined €595,000 in Cherbourg after being stopped with €1.2million of illegally-caught fish in freezers.
It is thought to be the largest fine ever imposed for illegal fishing in the EU – and is France’s record illegal fisheries haul.
The 141-metre German-registered Maartje Theadora, nicknamed the Hoover of the Seas by Greenpeace activists, was stopped inside French territorial waters last week off Cap d'Antifer (Seine-Maritime), just north of Le Havre. It had 1,585 tonnes of illegal fish out of the 4,000 tonnes on board.
Owners Westbank Hochseefischerei and the 36-year-old captain admitted having changed the vessel’s nets after leaving port. Cherbourg prosecutor Eric Bouillard said it was against fisheries law to change nets after setting to sea.
Basse-Normandie regional fisheries committee president Daniel Lefèvre denounced “the permanent pillaging of the Channel by these fleets, which is ruining local fishermen. Such mammoth vessels have no place in the Channel.”
He said Normandy fishermen had an annual quota of 1,600 tonnes of mackerel and trawlers like the Maartje Theadora could catch that in just part of one trip.
The vessel left port immediately after the verdict and German owners Westbank Hochseefischerei said that the case, where the vessel had been tied up at Cherbourg since last Friday, had cost the company "€1.065m in lost fishing time". Diederik Parlevliet, of Dutch parent company Parlevliet & Van Der Plas, complained “in other countries we would have paid €25,000 to €35,000 maximum”.
German boss Uwe Richter added that it was a “disproportionate penalty” and added “until now, there has never been such a large fine imposed in the European Union for this type of offence”.
Photo: © Greenpeace