Fines of up to €100,000 and provisional jail terms were handed out to the ringleaders of a massive fisheries fraud in the staunchly protestant town of Urk on Wednesday.
In total, 27 men from the village, including auction workers, fish traders and trawler operators, were in court on charges of forging catch records, over-fishing and breaking quotas.
The fraud came to light in 2004 when government inspectors raised the alarm about the high volume of dab, a type of flat fish, being traded through the fish auction in the coastal town on the IJsselmeer.
It transpired that trawlers were breaking the rules on fishing for plaice – an endangered fish with a strict quota – and registering their catch as other non-quota fish.
The investigation also led to the resignation of the local mayor who had warned officials at the fish auction that the police were planning a raid. In Wednesday’s ruling, the judges fined the auction €130,000, while its director was sentenced to 150 hours community service and a three month suspended jail term.
One fish trader – considered to be the leader of the illegal practices – was fined €100,000. All the sentences were less severe than demanded by the public prosecution department.
Some 80% of the 17,000 people living in Urk, a former island which has been attached to the mainland as the result of a reclamation project, make their living from fishing. The village is strongly religious and is reported to have 19 different Protestant churches.
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