Spanish tycoon hit with USD 10 million fine for illegal fishing
The owner of pirate fishing vessel F/V Thunder has been fined EUR 8.2 million (USD 10.1 million) in a civil case brought by the Spanish government.
According to an announcement issued by ocean conservation group Sea Shepherd, F/V Thunder was an INTERPOL-wanted fishing vessel that was involved in more than 10 years of illegal fishing, mainly targeting toothfish, in the Southern Ocean before its captain deliberately sank the vessel in the Gulf of Guinea after a 110-day at-sea pursuit by Sea Shepherd vessels.
The captain and two of his crew, who were rescued by Sea Shepherd, were sentenced to three years in prison and fined USD 15 million (EUR 18.4 million) by a court in the island state of Sao Tome and Principe in 2015.
Sea Shepherd said the owner, Spanish fishing tycoon Florindo González Corral, remained out of reach of the courts for a long time. But a combination of evidence seized by Sea Shepherd crew from the sinking vessel, the investigative journalism of Kjetil Saeter and Eskil Engdal of the Norwegian Business Daily, and raids of properties belonging to Galician fishing syndicates by law enforcement agents from the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Food and Environment (MAPAMA), the Guardia Civil (Spanish Federal Police) and INTERPOL, uncovered irrefutable evidence linking González Corral to F/V Thunder.
In addition to fines spread across three companies and eight people connected to the F/V Thunder, the civil case resulted in a 12-year fishing ban and the cut-off of government fishing subsidies to those involved.
The fines, levied almost three years after the sinking of F/V Thunder, show the continued efforts by MAPAMA to bring the owners and operators of fishing vessels engaged in illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing to justice, said Sea Shepherd.
“MAPAMA and the Guardia Civil have been instrumental in changing international perception of Spain as a haven for pirate fishermen. The fines levied against the F/V Thunder are a strong statement by Spanish authorities that the crackdown on toothfish poachers continues. Sea Shepherd applauds the work of MAPAMA, the Guardia Civil, and INTERPOL in continuing to chase the owner of the F/V Thunder on land, long after the chase of the F/V Thunder concluded at sea,” said Captain Peter Hammarstedt, director of campaigns for Sea Shepherd.
“However, the F/V Thunder made a profit of EUR 50 million (USD 61.4 million) during its toothfish poaching career, a number barely dented by a EUR 8.2 million fine. Sea Shepherd would like to see the owner of the F/V Thunder join its captain in serving prison time and therefore hopes that these administrative fines are followed by criminal charges,” Hammarstedt said.