Solicitors tackle illegal fishing
The Crown Office has appointed five solicitors to help to crack down on fishing skippers who break the law.
The move, announced on Wednesday, is designed to ensure "the robust enforcement of fisheries protection regulations".
It follows a Crown Office review on how fisheries protection issues are being handled.
Five existing procurators fiscal, based at Banff, Inverness, Lerwick, Stornoway and Oban, are to specialise in it.
The five are, Douglas Monaghan, procurator fiscal depute, Banff; Gary Aitken, district procurator fiscal, Inverness; Duncan MacKenzie, procurator fiscal depute, Lerwick; David Teale, district procurator fiscal, Stornoway and Lochmaddy; and Clifford Most, district procurator fiscal, Oban.
They will work closely with the Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency.
The Solicitor General Elish Angiolini QC, who announced the appointments, said: "We have recently reviewed the way in which we handle the cases of those who break fisheries protection law and pose a threat to the fishing industry.
"The network will receive and prosecute Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency cases to ensure we are capable of the robust enforcement of fisheries protection law."
Fisheries Minister Ross Finnie said improved compliance with regulations would protect the value of legitimate catches and fish stocks.
He said: "We want to see a profitable and sustainable fishing industry.
"Improving compliance with fisheries regulations will help to protect the value of legitimate catches and the fish stocks on which a viable industry depends."
But the Scottish Fishermen's Federation (SFF) claimed the move showed fisheries legislation was now so complex that even experienced law officers needed training to cope with its intricacies.
SFF chief executive Hamish Morrison said: "This initiative does, however, beg the question of whether enough is done to explain and justify the continuous stream of new regulations and restrictions which confront fishermen on a daily basis.
"The real challenge in this area of public policy is to simplify legislation and to explain its rationale and operations to those affected by it."
Mike Park, a leading skipper with the Scottish White Fish Producers Association, also gave the move a cautious welcome.
He described the initiative as a knee-jerk reaction to a recent European crackdown on law-breaking at sea.
From April to September this year 48 cases were prosecuted with a total of £159,750 imposed as fines, ranging from £1,000 to £3,600.