ANPPolitie arrests fishmongers in major action in Vlissingen
NOS Nieuws•vandaag, 19:40
During last night’s major police action in Vlissingen, 4 to 6 tons of illegally caught fish were seized. That says Jeroen Poelert, deputy head of the National Criminal Investigation Service at the police. Fish caught illegally are undersized fish, i.e. fish that do not meet the minimum length and fish with a catch limit. These are fish species that, for example, may not be caught during a certain period or in a certain place.
Shortly after midnight, police raided five fishing vessels moored at the fish market in Vlissingen after several days on the North Sea. Three fishmongers were arrested. The arrests were made on the basis of suspicion “that there is not simply bycatch, but that certain species and undersized fish are knowingly caught”.
Some of the caught fish had already been sold at auction. The bycatch remained on board in hidden areas, says Polert. “The intention is to register all fish, including undersized fish caught as bycatch, but that was not done in this case.”
150 officers were deployed in the raid. “There have been incidents in the past and we wanted to prevent that,” says Poelert. “The fish market is in a dark place, far away from everything. Fishing cutters are big boats that needed people to secure the ships.” About twenty agents were needed per boat. Officers were present on the quay to maintain order.
Monitoring ecological balance
The police investigation revealed that illegally caught fish in crates were loaded into fishmongers’ vans at quiet times on the quay. According to the police chief, this illegal catch of fish ends up in restaurants for consumption via those traders.
Illegal fishing has consequences for the ecological balance, among other things. Polert explains that undersized fish that do not meet the minimum length are often young fish that have not been able to reproduce.
Fishermen’s Union is shocked
Johan Nooitgedagt, chairman of the Dutch Fishermen’s Union, says he was shocked by the police action. “In terms of content, there is still little to report, because in our opinion no connection has been established between these fishermen and the relevant sale via alleged fish traders.”
He further emphasizes that undersized fish should remain in the sea until the fish has the correct minimum size and can be sold “through the regular channels”.
With those regular channels, Nooitgedagt refers to landings and sales through the fish auctions. “These keep records of landings and sales. That is why the cutter fishermen must and can fish within their quota.” According to the chairman, this offers fishermen and fishmongers a level playing field.