Skippers involved in a multi-million pound "black fish" scam were motivated by greed, a judge has suggested.
Seventeen fishing bosses are facing heavy fines after they admitted landing catches of mackerel and herring which were far in excess of EU quotas.
Prosecutors have already claimed back nearly £3m by confiscating illegal profits, paving the way for judge Lord Turnbull to levy further financial penalties for lying about the size of catches.
Skippers are appearing at the High Court in Edinburgh through the week to make pleas for leniency before a decision is made on how much they will pay out.
Hamish Slater, 53, of Fraserburgh, and Victor Buschini, 51, of Lancashire have taken their turn to appear at court on Tuesday.
Their haul of "black fish", on the Fraserburgh-registered Enterprise, was valued at £7.2m between January 2002 and March 2005.
The judge, Lord Turnbull, questioned the need for Buschini, who earns around £160,000 a year, to break the law to earn more money.
He said: "It doesn't seem that far from other criminal conduct. I am not suggesting it is as morally reprehensible as all that but, when it comes to it, is it not just greed?"
Defence QC Gordon Jackson replied: "Every penny has been paid back. They shot themselves in the foot.
"They have ended up a lot worse off than had they not done it in the first place.
"They have come out of it very badly at the end of the day."
Solicitor advocate Brian Fitzpatrick, defending Slater, said the skippers had suffered because their catches were restricted at a time when prices were soaring.
Mackerel had gone from £400 a tonne in 2005 to an all time high of £1100 a tonne, the court heard.
He said there was also resentment in the industry because Iceland and the Faroe Islands - operating outside EU rules - had massively increased their landings - by 6500% in the case of Iceland.
"If everyone stuck to international agreements there would be no threat to fish stocks," he said.
Mr Fitzpatrick said the combination of his share of the catch and the profits from the company which owned the Enterprise has given Slater earnings of £320,000 in 2010.
All the skippers involved in the nearly-£50m black fish scam, committed between 2002 and 2005, landed their catch at Lerwick-based Shetland Catch Limited.
The court has heard that officials of the Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency monitored catch sizes on computer screens which had been altered to show lower weights.
The true size of the landings of mackerel and herring were shown in an engineer's room where the officials did not go.