30th March 2017 A Donegal fish processing
plant and a company director have been fined €45,000 in total for tampering
with weighing scales used to measure incoming fish catches. This follows a
joint investigation carried out by NSAI (National Standards Authority of
Ireland) and the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA).
Norfish Ltd, based in Killybegs, and
director Tony Byrne, were handed down the sentence yesterday at Donegal Circuit
Court. Mr. Byrne was given a six-month suspended prison sentence and ordered to
pay €10,000 to a local hospice in Killybegs, and a further €10,000 to the Donegal
Branch of the RNLI. Norfish Ltd was given three months to pay a €25,000 fine.
The inspection carried out by NSAI’s
Legal Metrology division followed an alert from the Sea-Fisheries Protection
Authority, which had uncovered non-compliance during an unannounced inspection.
The SFPA noticed that fish were being carried along a conveyor belt and over
the flow scales, but were not being weighed. The SFPA withdrew Norfish Ltd’s
permit to weigh on site at this time and Legal Metrology conducted an
inspection under Metrology Legislation on the 4th of December, 2013. It found
that an electrical switch had been fitted to the company’s flow scales used to
weigh incoming fish catches. This switch could be used to turn off the scales,
allowing the fish to pass over without being weighed. Tampering with measuring
instruments used in trade and rendering them inaccurate as a result is an
offence under the Legal Metrology Act 1996.
Susan Steele, Chair, SFPA said the
verdict is an important outcome for the fishing industry. “Mis-weighing
distorts the declaration of catches and undermines the accuracy of data on
stocks used by scientists to determine quotas and could affect the long term
sustainability of our valuable fisheries and the coastal communities that rely
“Breaches such as these also
threaten the continuation of in-factory weighing for the entire industry, which
is permitted under a special exemption negotiated with the SFPA. This
facility can continue only while the accuracy and correct use of those weighing
systems is guaranteed,” she added.
EU fishery regulations require all fishery
products to be weighed immediately on landing. However, the SFPA obtained a conditional
derogation for the Irish industry which can allow the weighing to take place
after transport – typically at processing establishments.