Skipper in fish scam ordered to pay £1m

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More than £1m has been confiscated from four skippers involved in landing undeclared fish in a scam described as an “episode of shame” for the industry.

Ian Buchan, 55, was ordered to pay £1m – thought to be one of the largest amounts confiscated from an individual in Scotland – for his part in the “black fish” scam while he was skipper of the vessel Master of the Quantas.

James Duthie, 55, was given a confiscation order of £99,000, Stephen Bellany, 49, was ordered to pay £64,612, and 64-year-old Oswald McRonald was ordered to pay £23,669.

All of the fishermen were convicted of evading EU fishing quotas by making illegal landings of herring and mackerel at Fresh Catch and Alexander Buchan, both in Peterhead, Aberdeenshire, between January 1 2002 and March 19 2005.

The confiscation orders, under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and Proceeds of Crime (Scotland) Act 1995, were given at the High Court in Edinburgh. Sentencing was deferred until July 16.

On February 17 skippers and processing firm Alexander Buchan were fined a combined total of almost £1m for their involvement in the scam.

During sentencing, Judge Lord Turnbull said: “The extent to which landings of fish were deliberately under-declared was at times truly staggering and in the case of some of the accused concerned, took place continuously over a three-year period.

“The result is an episode of shame for much of the whole pelagic fishing industry.”

The convictions are a result of the seven-year Operation Trawler investigation, launched when the Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency, now Marine Scotland, became suspicious about widespread illegal landing of fish within the pelagic fleet.

The illegal landings, which also involved the Lerwick-based firm Shetland Catch, were worth a total of £47.5m, the court was told