Five vessels boarded during search operation as part of investigation into alleged IUU landings

Between 150 and 200 police officers were involved in a co-ordinated and well-planned raid on the Dutch port of Vlissingen just after midnight on 14 April, just after the last issue of FN went to press. Simultaneous raids took place on several vessels, as well as the homes and premises of several fish buyers.

Five vessels were boarded during the lengthy operation, which lasted most of the night. Whilst the emphasis was on locating and seizing fish – including, it is believed, significant quantities of undersized bass – Dutch authorities emphasised that their primary targets were fish traders rather than fishermen themselves.

Notwithstanding this, film footage of the raids, seen by FN, confirms that crews were also body-searched and held for some time with their hands on their heads, whilst police looked for evidence. They were also required to make formal statements to investigators undertaking the searches.

A police RIB was also involved, working the harbour area around the vessels, as well as a larger offshore patrol vessel that entered the harbour.

The Netherlands National Criminal Investigation Department, which co- ordinated the raids with the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority, said that the suspected offences were by legitimate traders who were distributing illegally caught fish along with catches landed legally and reported through the Dutch system.

“Environmental crime is not always visible on the surface, and is often intertwined in apparently bona fide companies,” a representative of the Dutch police said. “That’s why it is important that environmental crime is fought hard and thoroughly.

“The environmental team of the National Criminal Investigation Department focuses on environmental crime with an international focus.’

Although NGOs and other groups have long accused certain sections of the Dutch fleet – primarily the fly-shooters working the English Channel – of being involved with IUU landings, little evidence to support their claims has ever been produced.

Vessels identified by FN as being the target of the raids were, however, larger beam trawlers. The vessels we have identified were not detained, and returned to sea as normal after the weekend break.

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here

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