Wednesday 16 March 2016

Six arrested in Spain on charges of illegal fishing of protected species

Five members of Spain’s Vidal family of fishing barons are among those held on charges of illegally catching Patagonian toothfish, in joint raids by Spanish police and Interpol

Stephen Burgen, Barcelona
Wednesday 9 March 2016 13.58 GMTLast modified on Thursday 10 March 201609.24 GMT

Six people have been arrested on charges of illegal fishing of protected species in raids carried out jointly by Interpol and Spanish police in Galicia in northwest Spain.

The six include five members of the Vidal family who run Ribeiro Vidal Armadores, among them Antonio Vidal, the owner, and three of his children who are accused of illegally fishing Patagonian toothfish in Antarctic waters.

The fish, which is rich in allegedly health-enhancing Omega-3 fatty acids, is known as “white gold” in the industry as it can sell for as much as €130 (£100) a kilo. A large catch can be worth as much as €50m so poachers are willing to risk being fined for illegal fishing.

The Vidal family, which has a previous record of illegal fishing, has a factory in the town of Boiro which for several years has been manufacturing products based on Omega-3. The factory was one of three premises searched during the raids and the presence of both Interpol and Europol agents suggests the investigation is international in scope and further arrests may follow.

 “This is the first time that the Spanish Civil Guard, Interpol and Europol have joined forces against illegal fishing in a joint action,” said Lasse Gustavsson, executive director of the NGO Oceana in Europe. “This announcement is a watershed in the fight to eradicate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing of our oceans.”

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