Magistrates at Folkestone, Kent have sentenced a 48 year old unemployed man from Slade Green near Dartford to do one hundred and fifty hours unpaid work under a Community Order for illegally importing over half a tonne of live carp into the country from France, and for failing to notify the Centre for Environment Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) of the pending import. Mark William Saward was also ordered to pay £7,214.12 costs. Mr Saward had attempted to import 45 carp, each weighing between 24lbs and 35lbs - without the required fish health certification.
The smuggling offence was committed on 9th December 2007 and came to light as a result of HM Revenue and Customs activity at the Channel Tunnel terminal in Coquelles, France. They notified fish health inspectors at Cefas and officers from the Animal Health unit at Dover and Kent Police were also involved in dealing with the incident.
When stopped, officers discovered a large tank of water with the fish packed into it in the back of Mr Saward's van. Asked where the fish had come from he initially told them that they must have been in the van when he went out to France. He later told a Cefas investigator that he had been offered money to collect the fish from a man in a lay-by near Calais and deliver them to an un-named man who would be waiting for him at Clackett Lane Services in Kent. He refused to divulge the name of the person he was working for.
Before sentencing Mr Saward the Magistrates called for a probation report and told him that it was clear the smuggling operation had been carefully planned, large profits were involved, the fish were transported in poor welfare conditions and if they had got into the country they would have been a potentially serious threat to our indigenous fish. Mr Saward pleaded guilty to both charges and apologised to the Court and to all parties involved for wasting their time. He told the Court that it was out of character but he was unemployed and had committed the offence as a means of providing for his family at Christmas.
Cefas investigator Stephen Maidment commented, "This incident is almost identical to two other smuggling offences in August 2006 and March 2007 involving live carp, vans and unemployed drivers with similar stories. The fish farming, angling, press and fisheries fraternities have worked so hard to support Cefas in its attempts to stop fish smuggling, and to very good effect overall, but there will always be one or two people who through sheer greed and stupidity are prepared to risk introducing disease to our indigenous stocks."
The fish were humanely destroyed to prevent the threat of disease. Samples taken from the consignment were later examined at the Cefas laboratory in Weymouth, Dorset.