Royal Navy River-class patrol ships - HMS Tyne, HMS Severn and HMS Mersey - regularly patrol the British coastline protecting the nation’s precious fish stocks against overfishing and illegal practices.
In July 2010, during a routine boarding by HMS Tyne of a fishing vessel off the Isles of Scilly, the ship’s company discovered over 500kg of salted ling not recorded in the logbook on board the Spanish-registered Coyo Tercero, owned by Hijos de Vidal Bandin SA.
HMS Tyne escorted the fishing boat back to Falmouth, where officers of the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) took over the investigation.
Once the Coyo Tercero was alongside at Falmouth, the MMO discovered a connection to the UK-registered vessel O’Genita, owned by a British subsidiary company Sealskill Ltd.
In August 2010, MMO officers searched the O’Genita while in port in Scotland revealing extensive illegal boat-to-boat transfers of fish caught in Scottish and Irish waters, which had then been landed into Spain and the UK.
Charges brought by the MMO included false entries in logbooks and failing to record trans-shipments. The defendants - masters of the vessels, Jose Antonio Perez Garcia and Jose Manuel Martinez, and the owning companies - pleaded guilty to charges at an earlier hearing in Truro in April this year.
Danny Poulding, senior investigating officer for the MMO, said:
This company systematically abused the quota system for significant and unfair financial gain, threatening the future sustainability of an already vulnerable fish stock and impacting on the businesses of legitimate fishermen by flooding the market with cheaper fish.
We are pleased that the Court has recognised the seriousness of these offences.
The Fishery Protection Squadron (FPS) is the Royal Navy’s oldest front line squadron, with three ships - HMS Tyne, HMS Severn and HMS Mersey - dedicated to ensuring a sustaining future for fishing around the UK.
The fishery limits of England, Wales and Northern Ireland (Scotland has its own arrangements for fishery protection) extend 200 miles (322km) from the coastline and cover 80,000 square miles (207,199 square kilometres) of sea.
The introduction of the River class vessels has drawn attention to the FPS, highlighting the valuable task that all ships in the Squadron perform.
These versatile ships are able to operate with helicopters, and could be utilised in the Maritime Counter Terrorism, Anti-drug Surveillance or Pollution Control role in addition to their core tasking of fishery protection. The operational programme of the FPS takes its ships to many ports in the United Kingdom and the West Coast of Europe where they routinely ‘fly the flag’ and play a key public relations role during port open days and fish festivals. Each ship and every person in the Squadron plays a vital part in sustaining the complex tapestry of our Economic Exclusion Zone control.