Illegal shellfish gang walks free


By Michael MacLeod

OVER 100kg of illegally caught shellfish destined for Edinburgh restaurants has been seized.

Police on routine patrol caught a gang with five bags of contaminated periwinkles, ready to be sold on the black market to the capital’s top eateries.

The snail-like animals could have seen the six men involved make hundreds of pounds.

But they walked free after handing over the live shellfish last Thursday, telling cops they didn’t know they’d broken the law.

But if caught a second time, the harvesters each face a £5000 fine and six months’ imprisonment.

Restaurant-goers could have fallen ill had they eaten the periwinkles, which were harvested in the polluted River Forth.

Edinburgh city council’s environment leader Robert Aldridge said: “We have managed to prevent this potentially contaminated shellfish from ending up on unsuspecting consumers’ plates.

“This should serve as a strong warning that we will not hesitate to take swift action against those who illegally harvest shellfish for commercial purposes.”

The police and council are now investigating further reports of several illegal harvests on the shore between Cramond and Joppa.

A Chinese gang were arrested in the Forth in 2003 after reports that hundreds of sacks of cockles were being swiped from Cramond Island and loaded into vans on the beach.

They ignored warning signs on the beach, which say cockles are contaminated, unfit for eating and protected by law.

PC Steve Neill, from Lothian and Borders Police said: “This has been a problem affecting coastal locations around the country in recent months, so we are pleased we’ve managed to stop illegal shellfish being harvested in the foreshore of Edinburgh before there was any risk to the public.

“We will remain vigilant with regards to this activity, and anyone caught breaking the law will be dealt with robustly.”

A spokesman for the Food Standards Agency said: “There’s no prohibition on casual gathering of shellfish for your own personal consumption.

“But if people are harvesting them and selling them on, then they have to conform to food safety laws.

“There are concerns these could potentially have been harmful to health.

“In this case Edinburgh City Council took appropriate measures to prevent the illegal harvesting and sale of periwinkles and this action is fully supported by the FSA.”