The captain of a British fishing boat and the vessel’s skipper have been hauled before a French judge as France seeks to extradite them for allegedly using the hull of a fishing vessel belonging to an Italian firm to haul in French fish.
The Portuguese captain and Spanish captain of the boat RUE11 have been in custody since Thursday after a French judge issued an international arrest warrant against them. The boat’s skipper declined to appear in court Saturday, prompting French court officials to order the arrest warrant, AFP reports.
Sources inside the custody center told The Daily Caller that the four are depressed and have denied using the hull to make illegal catches.
The boat allegedly picked up 170 fish from the French coast for which the actual fish weight of between 40 and 40-something kilograms (88 pounds to 89 pounds) has been calculated to match the wind-powered vessel’s hull. The foreign owners say the fish were found to be caught in the same water that the British vessel had access to.
Under French law, the boat owner, RUE11 owners Jonathan Lawless and his company Lochfinn LMS, have four years to prove that the license to fish is valid.
France has charged the two Spaniards with “aggravated poaching” and a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a 40,000 euro ($47,000) fine. They reportedly declined to comment when local media tried to interview them in the detention center.
Lawless’ mother told The Daily Caller she’s upset about his detention and she thinks her son’s case is different from the RUE11.
“It’s the same issue they are concerned about,” she said. “He was, however, fishing for mackerel and that law doesn’t apply to that. He has a license for mackerel and not trawling.”
A spokesperson for the Ministry of the Interior in France said, “We have a treaty with Italy, which we are currently carrying out in the case. The minister has given full authorization to us to move forward.”
John Sweeney, the Commonwealth Marine Trades Federation’s special assistant for fisheries policy, told The Daily Caller he doesn’t think the statute will hold up in court.
“They won’t fall foul of that law,” he said. “The statute, the illegality of illegal fishing, and what constitutes smuggling are all going to be opposed in court.”
Fox News’ Laurel Brandegee contributed to this report.