The EC found that Heiploeg, Klaas Puul, Kok Seafood and Stührk agreed to fix prices and share sales volumes of North Sea brown shrimps in Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands. The cartel took the form of a range of informal bilateral contacts between North Sea shrimp traders and the discussions usually covered purchase prices from fishermen, conduct towards other traders on the market, market sharing, and prices charged to specific important customers that often set the benchmark price for other customers. The four cartelists have high combined market shares in the European Economic Area (“EEA”), estimated to be around 80%. The principal offenders, Klaas Puul and Heiploeg, account for approximately 75% of the market.
The EC Decision concerned the North Sea brown shrimp, a crustacean fished intensively in the shallow coastal waters of the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark, which accounted for 95% of the total landings in the EEA in 2009. The size of the market varies heavily from year to year depending on the volumes landed by the fishermen and the price paid, but is always at least €100 million.