The head of the company that owns the world’s largest trawler said on Sunday that his board is considering appealing a €105,000 fine imposed by an Irish court.
Diederik Parlevliet, managing director of Dutch firm Parlevliet and Van der Plas which owns super-trawler Annelies Ilena, complained the skipper was ordered to pay "a vastly unproportionate" sum for a €30 breach of the law.
That’s what he claimed the amount of illegal fish was worth on the trawler, which is a half-metre longer than pitch in Croke Park.
The Irish Navy and Sea Fisheries Protection officers boarded the 144.6-metre Annelies Ilena off Tory Island in November 2013.
The prosecution accused the trawler crew under skipper Gerrit Plug of high-grading the catch to increase its value.
But Judge John O'Hagan on Friday at Donegal Circuit Court withdrew that charge on the grounds that there was not enough evidence for the jury to consider it.
Instead, the jury convicted 58-year-old Plug of three other breaches of EU fishing regulations
Mr Parlevliet said: “The charge of high-grading was dropped. The other charges were no more than technical offences and have nothing to do with high-grading.
“Yet our skipper has been fined a vastly unproportionate sum. We are certainly considering an appeal.”
The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) has welcomed the conviction. SFPA chair Susan Steele said “this ruling sends a clear message and a severe warning to anyone engaged in illegal fishing activities”.
“Illegal fishing has many serious consequences for the people who depend on fisheries for food and employment,”she said.
She added “the SFPA has prioritised the implementation of the new landing obligation [banning discards from pelagic vessels] during 2015. “
“With the support of the Naval Service we are committed to detecting all cases of illegal fishing to ensure that EU quotas are fairly and sustainably managed continuously and fish continue to make a vital contribution to the Irish economy on a sustainable basis,” she said.
Judge O’Hagan imposed the maximum €105,000 fine – €35,000 for each of the three convicted offences – but did not forfeit the vessel’s fishing gear which is worth several million euro.
He said at the end of a complex three-day trial: “This is a very large trawler. As a result of being king of the seas there is a specific obligation to ensure that all the gear is correct as an example to other trawlers. It has been found wanting!”
Suspicions of Navy and sea fisheries protection officers were raised when they saw large sea-birds apparently eating fish immediately behind the Dutch-owned super-trawler which some years ago was known as the Atlantic Dawn when it operated out of Killybegs.