Fishing offences cost Burnmouth skipper £10,000 fine

A BURNMOUTH fisherman has been hit with a fine of £10,000 after admitting two fishing offences off the Northumberland coast.

John Affleck pleaded guilty to breaching Northumberland Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (NIFCA) byelaws relating to bait and tagging of pots while fishing off the coast at Holy Island in August last year.

On Friday, January 6 at North Tyneside Magistrates’ Court Affleck was landed with a bill for almost £11,000 once court and investigation costs were included.

At the hearing, Affleck admitted using edible crab meat as bait and also failing to fix NIFCA-issued tags to his pots.

NIFCA solicitor Noel Dilks told the court that on Tuesday, August 2, the NIFCA patrol vessel was carrying out routine identification of pots just north of Holy Island.

A marker buoy identifying the defendant’s vessel ‘Soph-Ash Jay’ was attached to the pots but it became apparent after they had been hauled aboard for inspection that some did not have any tags attached and all appeared to be baited with various type of fish and brown crab.

Affleck was informed by NIFCA that his pots had been seized as part of the inspection and investigation and on August 9 he attended the patrol vessel at Royal Quays, North Shields, where he identified the pots as his own and was interviewed under caution.

During the interview he admitted he had used the brown crab as bait, which he knew was an offence and he also admitted that some of his pots did not have tags.

Mr Dilks explained that full-time fishermen with a permit from NIFCA could only work up to 800 pots within the authority’s district, although they can work more outside of the district and particularly beyond six miles out to sea or in Scottish waters.

Speaking on his own behalf, Affleck said he had two boats and employed seven staff, but did not think it fair that a part-time fisherman with a licence and a small boat could work as many pots in the sea as himself.

He admitted however using the brown crab as bait saying it was better to use crab than fish at certain times of year, but he knew it was against the law.

He also explained that he had lost a number of tags whilst moving some of his gear from Scotland to England and had not replaced them.

Affleck added that he had lost time in attending court and going to the patrol vessel for interview and another couple of days lost fishing before he could return his pots to the sea.

The defendant was fined £6,000 for using edible crab for bait and £4,000 for not affixing NIFCA tags to the pots. The fine had been reduced by 30 per cent taking into consideration his early guilty plea.

Costs of £400 plus VAT and NIFCA officers’ costs of £416 were also ordered.