Illegal fishing of threatened cod in Sweden

In Sweden 17 people went on trial for illegally fishing more than 100 tonnes of cod, increasing pressure on threatened fish stocks, in the Scandinavian country’s largest ever poaching case. It is told that the sixteen fishermen stand charged in the Varberg district court in southwestern Sweden of illegally pulling in 109 tonnes of cod in 2005 and passing it off as pollock in order to circumvent strict EU quotas limiting cod fishing.

The court even accused a purchaser of the fish as he facilitating the scam, which allowed the fishermen to make an additional 1.83 million kronor (195,000 euros, 286,950 dollars) in total. The Swedish Board of Fisheries said that the case is serious since the illegal fishing puts further pressure on dwindling cod stocks in the Kattegat strait. The board’s control chief, Johan Loewenadler expressed that cod is very vulnerable and in this case, one has in principle expanded the (legal) quota by 12 percent, which of course can have serious (environmental) consequences.

It is true that two fishermen have admitted to passing cod off as unquoted pollock. Their lawyer Bjoern Breitfeld also informed that the two men had inadvertently caught large quantities of cod when they were aiming to catch other fish species. He pointed out that they had had the choice of tossing the already dying fish back into the water or admitting that they had overfished their quota.

Prosecutor Haakan Larsson however did not believe the cod was caught by mistake. He has called for the fishermen to be fined the sums they made on the illegal fishing, but still has the option to request sentences of up to two years in prison if they are found guilty. It is said that the trial is expected to take 18 days of hearings, and is scheduled to wrap up on October 10.