UPDATE: Fish merchant boss speaks out after company is hit with heavy fine over clams

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A FISH merchant has been fined for the second time in a month.

Viviers, which is based at the Camber Dock in Old Portsmouth, was left with a court bill of £34,700 after being caught with under-sized shellfish.

Now it has been hit with another £14,500 fine after admitting to storing undersize shellfish on its premises on three separate occasions.

At Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court Viviers (UK) Ltd pleaded guilty to three offences relating to the storage of under-sized Manila clams.

At the same hearing company director Eric McLeod, 72, pleaded guilty to failing to comply with a requirement to produce documentation relating to the shellfish inspected in those premises.

The court heard the on March 11, 2016, a joint inspection was conducted at Viviers involving Officers from the Southern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority, Marine Management Organisation and the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science.

Around 60 trays of Manila clams in tanks were found to be 75 per cent under the minimum conservation reference size of 35mm.

The court was told that in a separate incident, on April 21, 2016, an inspection found 70 trays of the clams, 50 per cent under-sized.

When Officers asked McLeod to produce documentation as to the origin of the shellfish he refused saying he did not agree with the legislation. And in a third separate incident on June 15, 2016, 160 trays of clams were found to be over 47 per cent under-sized.

On this occasion McLeod stated that the clams had come from Poole Harbour.

Commenting on the case, Southern IFCA Deputy Chief Officer Ian Jones said ‘Minimum size legislation is an essential management tool to ensure that there is enough stock left on the grounds to support the fishery and the fishermen in the region that rely on them.

‘Southern IFCA is committed to protecting these fisheries to ensure healthy seas, sustainable fisheries and a viable industry.

‘This type of illegal activity puts legitimate operators at a disadvantage. By pursuing these matters vigorously through court we aim to support and protect the local fishery.’

He added: ‘This case is another good example of a joined up collaborative approach with other agencies that enables cost effective inspections to be carried out to satisfy the joint objectives of all involved.

‘Failing to comply with Officers reasonable directions will not be tolerated and merchants are required to provide documentation and assist officers where necessary in the execution of their duties.’

Viviers (UK) Ltd and McLeod were sentenced for the three matters and all charges collectively. In sentencing, the district judge took into account Viviers’ prior convictions for illegal fishing activity, including the recent matter in the same Court earlier this month. McLeod was ordered to pay £1,200 and Viviers (UK) Ltd £6,000 in fines and the full costs of £7,544 were awarded against the company.

Fines and costs totalled £14,744.00.

Company says clams ‘aren’t growing to 35mm in size’

MANAGEMENT at fish merchant Viviers have spoken out in a bid to raise awareness about the EU regulation they say is killing them, after receiving thousands of pounds worth of fines.

They state the reason they had Manilla clams under 35mm in size is because the ones in local waters aren’t growing that big.

Angela Lloyd, company secretary for Viviers, said: ‘The Manilla clam was originally bred in test tubes. The seed was put down in Poole Harbour and its since spread to our local waters.

‘The EU regulation says you cannot take them under 35mm. The problem is – they’re not growing that big, it’s as simple as that.

‘Whether that’s because of the cold water or something else, it’s just not happening.

‘We have told the officers from the Southern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA) this, but they don’t care because they go by EU regulation.

‘We agree with wanting to protect the fishery and the seas, but if the clams aren’t growing to 35mm in size, what can we do?’

Ms Lloyd said the authorities haven’t conducted any stock assessments, or had a look at the clams.

She added: ‘If you don’t fish the clams they die, so this really isn’t helping the fishery at all. We believe this is going to kill Viviers and many fishermen.

‘We’re not doing this for greed, it’s for survival.’

Company director Eric McLeod is calling for the law to be changed. He said: ‘I don’t want there to be a size restriction at all. It’s very difficult for fishermen to be picking up and checking each clam – they might have thousands of them, and throwing the small ones back? They don’t live.

‘Our staff and the 40-50 fisherman we service are all going to be put out. It’s not English law, the clams aren’t native of this country and they aren’t naturalised, despite what the Southern IFCA says.’