Exposed: organised crime at sea

Posted by Ariana Densham — 2 October 2011 at 8:15am - Comments
All rights reserved. Credit: Tom-Morgan Jones/ Greenpeace
Antonio Vidal Pego is the boss of the Spanish family operation

You might not think that the criminal underworld smells of sea salt and fish guts, but when there are millions of euros up for grabs for Europe's fishing fleet the crooks with hooks surface.

Our recent investigation exposed a shocking tale of organised crime and vested interests related to Spain's industrial scale fishing fleet. We also discovered the Spanish government putting the profits of its fleet over healthy fish stocks. We put the spotlight on ‘Tono’, Spain’s most notorious fishing baron and head of the Vidal family network of fishing operators. Even though they have a list of convictions for illegal fishing, their network continues to operate a fleet of ships, endangering vital fish stocks.

Astonishingly since 2002, they have received at least 15.8 million euros in subsides. That means that European tax payers have been funding the activities of this illegal fishing network for years.

Spain has the largest, most destructive and most lucrative fishing fleet in Europe. It also receives the most EU subsidies – more than 1.1 billion Euros.

The Spanish government is prioritising the short term interests of industrial scale fishing fleets at the expense of long-term sustainable fisheries management. And they can do this because the rules that governs European fishing - the Common Fisheries Policy - are broken and permitt public money to benefit the most destructive companies, like Tono’s.

Vested interests make Spain the leading nation blocking radical reform of the Common Fisheries Policy. But we have an opportunity to change that over the coming year. The CFP is undergoing a once in a decade reform process with new regulation coming in from January 2013.

But if there is to be any chance of reform then politicians like Richard Benyon, the UK’s Fisheries Minister, and others who support radical reform will have to stand up to the Spanish fishing barons and their representatives in Brussels.

The EU must stop paying for illegal fishing. We need a new fisheries policy that prevents overfishing and supports a healthy and sustainable fishing industry. Sign up to get email updates to find out how you can help in the coming weeks and months. 

Read our full report below.

Click here to download full report

Why forget the illegal fishing on the shores of Western Sahara? In that territory an UN peace mission is monitoring a ceasefire. Technically the Western Sahara, the former Spanish Sahara,  and the adjecent waters are still warzones. Fishing there is engaging in plunder and pillage, also when it is done with a Moroccan license.. That is illegal and a crime as well. The revenues of the natural richesses belong to the original population who is oppressed by Morocco and partly living in refugeecamps in Algeria. The fishery crimes are not only about fish but also about stealing from refugees.

Excellent report! But please make it avaible as a PDF for us researchers.

To download the pdf: you can either click on information icon on the document or here's the link to take you straight there.


Thanks for quick response. But it still does not work. The site wants me to log in with a passwiord, which obviousy I do not have ....

Hi there, sorry about that - you do need to register on that site to access it.  So to make life simpler I've put it up on our site too, so there's a new link above and here:


me llamo jose carlos pazos curras, soy  de moaña, por supuesto en galicia, soy lo que  ustedes llaman  un terrorista del mar.

yo he trabajado desde el año 93 hasta el año 2006 al toothfish, con licencia y sin licencia, y les puedo asegurar al mas experto de ustedes, que ni yo ni mis tripulaciones, cagamos radioactivo, repito, nuestra mierda, no es radioactiva.

mi trabajo con o sin licencia ha sido el mismo, larga, vira, larga, vira,etc ahora si, si ustedes piensan que los que no tenemos licencia cagamos radioactivo, pues que le voy a hacer.

ahora bien yo creo que ustedes ya saben que nuestra mierda, aunque apestosa, no tiene nada que ver con fukushima, y si esto es asi, la unica diferencia entre pescar con licencia o no es que hay que pagar por pescar.

ustedes hablan de mafia gallega, yo hablo de la mafia de ccmelar,(asociacion que se dedica a extorsionar a los pescadores alegales (no ilegales) con barcos de guerra y ocean vicking y otros funcionarios del regimen de ccmlar)

australia tiene grandes intereses en la antartida, al igual que nueva zelanda, francia, surafrica incluso españa, cualquier pais.lo mas triste de todo es que ustedes, asociacion ecologista, les hacen el juego a todos estos paises.

quiren preservar el toothfish. formula: aqui no pesca toothfish ni mafia gallega, ni mafia australiana, ni francesa, ni dios.

que le interesa a ustedes preservar el tootfish(bacalao) o que los gallegos no lo pesquemos.

si quieren salvar el bacalao,desmarquense de asociaciones gubernamentales interesadas en el tema, y tal vez yo sea el primero en estar con ustedes, pero no  mientras tanto ustedes esten con quien nos hostiga.

yo tengo una teoria un tanto radical de la pesca moderna. yo creo que quien vive de la pesca moderna, son funcionarios, politicos,que se yo, gente que no tiene absolutamente nada que ver con el mar.

donde yo vivo para pescar en la ria de vigo tienes que pagar taxas a marina mercante, a ministerio de pesca, a la seguridad social,y aparte pagar por los distintos estilos de pesca.

en cada uno de esos apartados hay una serie de funcionarios, altos cargos, directivos etc,

el drama de acabar con la pesca aqui no son los pobres marineros, sino toda esta banda de vampiros que viven de puta madre a costa de marineros trabajadores y normalmente mal informados.

creo que en la pesca de altura actual pasa lo mismo. yo no soy un pobre marinero (faltaria mas) pero si me comparo cuan cualquier directivo de ccmelar ....... mas pobre que una araña.

tal vez sin ser comunista mi ideal sobre el mar es similar al de "la tierra para quien la trabaja" que quieren que les diga yo, sin ser comunista, estoy de acuerdo en este punto, el mar  para quien lo trabaja.   

yo quiero la paz en el mundo,y por eso opino que estados unidos o rusia  o cualquier pais no tienen derecho a hacer la guerra, si ustedes quieren preservar el bacalao defiendan que no lo pesque absolutamente nadie, ni estados unidos ni rusia ni gallegos ni dios, o de lo contrario su discurso se parece mucho al que tenia george bush cuando decia que su guerra era la unica  legitima y no la de los terroristas,(en este caso del mar).



Dear Madam,

This campaign is DISGRACEFUL and blatantly

It is utterly unacceptable that YOU use my rich cultural culinary 
heritage to misled people to think it is the cause of a global problem. 
The cause of overfishing is NOT paella as the headlines of the campaign
point. Why not
the "Case of the Rotten Fish and Chips"?

I strongly request that you stop supporting xenophobia.

I ask for your support in requesting GREENPEACE UK to cancel this
campaign with immediate effect and issue a full apology in international

I ask for your support in requesting GREENPEACE INTERNATIONAL to
launch a full investigation on this xenophobic case, disciplinary
actions are taken, and results are published in international media.

Looking forward to your prompt actions,


Thank you for shedding light on this important issue. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime recently (2011) released a study into transnational organised crime in the fishing industry (in particular human trafficking and drug trafficking) and its links to illegal fishing and corruption in gaining fish licenses and access rights:

Organised crime at sea poses particular challenges to law enforcement - and illegal fishing clearly shows why this is so. 


About Ariana

I’m Ariana and I’m an campaigner in the Oceans team at Greenpeace UK.  

interested? Follow me on twitter @arianadensham


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