Police not ruling out link between illegal shellfish and vessel sinking

Police Scotland have refused to rule out a link between £40,000 worth of illegal shellfish impounded at Oban recently and the sinking of a fishing boat on Eriskay two days later.

On 27th February Argyll and Bute Council seized almost a tonne of razorfish from a lorry that had been travelling by ferry from Barra. It was later confirmed that the shellfish were harvested from unclassified waters and so were ruled unfit for human consumption.

A spokeswoman for the council added: “Working with partner agencies including the Food Standards Agency Scotland, Marine Scotland and Police Scotland, the council’s environmental health officers, using powers under UK and European food safety legislation, detained the consignment.

“They later applied for, and were granted, an order for destruction of the consignment from a Justice of the Peace. The consignment was later taken, by a local waste contractor, to be destroyed.
“The catch was headed for Hong Kong, with an estimated market value of £40,000.”

Just two days after the razorfish was seized, the Oban-registered MFV ‘Quest’ sank while tied up at Acarsaid, Eriskay. The vessel had been fishing for razorfish in the west Minch for almost two months prior to the sinking.

Initial reports had suggested that the sinking was not an accident and that the vessel had been sabotaged. Investigations carried out on the vessel after she was brought to the surface seem to confirm that, with evidence showing that some hydraulic hoses had been cut and that other valves and seacocks had been opened. The bow and wheelhouse were also damaged.

The authorities suspect that organised gangs and individuals are to blame for the illegal trade in shellfish. Argyll and Bute Council and Marine Scotland both declined to name the vessel whose catch was impounded and destroyed as the investigation into the case was still ongoing.

A spokeswoman from Marine Scotland said: “This seizure was part of a multi-agency operation involving Marine Scotland. Our fishery officers will continue to work jointly with relevant criminal justice partners and other agencies in sharing intelligence and enforcing relevant regulations to tackle any suspected illegal activity or trade.”

A spokesman for Police Scotland would not comment on a link between the sinking and the illegal razorfish while inquiries were ongoing.

A statement issued by Police Scotland’s Highland and Islands Division last Friday said: “Police can confirm that following the recovery and examination of the MFV ‘Quest’ they are treating the sinking as suspicious and that an investigation into the matter is ongoing.

“Police are keen to speak to anyone who has any information about the incident and would encourage them to contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online at www.crimestoppers-uk.org. No personal details are taken, information is not traced or recorded and you will not go to court.”