AMSTERDAM (AP) — European regulators have fined four North Sea shrimp traders 28 million euros ($38 million) for forming a cartel to divide the market and set prices at an artificially high level.

The European Commission said Wednesday that customers in Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands were directly affected from 2003 to 2007.

Competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia said the level of information-sharing between the four companies involved — Heiploeg, Klaas Puul and Kok Seafood of the Netherlands and Stuerk of Germany — was "astonishing," given that several Dutch traders had been fined shortly before the new cartel was launched.

Together, the companies controlled 80 percent of the European shrimp market, worth 100 million euros annually.