The skipper of a Norwegian fishing boat was fined £20,000 at Lerwick Sheriff Court today after admitting under-reporting the quantity of mackerel his vessel had on board by around 75 tonnes.
Frode Kjempenes, 43, of Bulandet to the north of Bergen, pleaded guilty to declaring only 55 tonnes of mackerel when leaving EU waters last week when he actually had 125.8 tonnes on board. His small pelagic purser Buefjord was boarded by the Marine Scotland vessel Hirta and escorted into Lerwick harbour on Saturday.
Procurator fiscal Duncan Mackenzie said Kjempenes’ behaviour amounted to a “straightforward under-declaration” of the amount of fish he had on board. Because he only had around 50 tonnes of quota left, Mr Mackenzie said, he had a “clear incentive” in “not being completely truthful” about his catch.
Kjempenes, who is the major shareholder in Buefjord and has skippered the boat since 1989, had previously been fined £14,000 for an “analogous” under-declaration a few years ago, albeit under a different regulatory regime.
Defence agent Tommy Allan said his client accepted what he had done was “stupid”. He explained that smaller vessels landing lower volumes of fish often did not receive as high a price as larger landings at Norwegian fish markets and he had hoped that inflating the catch “might raise the price he would expect to get for it”.
Kjempenes had been “extremely sleep-deprived” following a two-day fishing operation, Mr Allan continued, and had already caught his remaining quota of 55 tonnes in two separate hauls, but had then taken extra fish on board from another vessel which had exceeded its quota.
The catch provided net proceeds of £60,000 when it was sold at the Shetland Catch factory in Lerwick, but Mr Allan explained Kjempenes would not receive any profit beyond his quota – the rest going to a central organisation back in Norway, meaning the financial benefit to him was “fairly marginal”.
Having to tie his boat up in Lerwick for several days had cost Kjempenes – who still has outstanding quota to catch herring and horse mackerel – an estimated £35,000 to £40,000. The maximum fine for the offence was £50,000, with an additional fine up to the value of the undeclared fish.
Honorary sheriff Malcolm Bell took into account Kjempenes’ personal circumstances – a father of one, his wife back home in Norway is expecting twins imminently – but said the prior conviction “ought to have served as a warning to you”.
He had tried to “pull the wool over people’s eyes”, honorary sheriff Bell said, fining him £30,000 reduced to £20,000 for pleading guilty at an early stage.
Meanwhile, Marine Scotland is preparing a report for the procurator fiscal about a second Norwegian fishing boat, the Sklinnabanken, which was escorted into Lerwick harbour at the weekend.