Skipper Pleads Guilty 27th June 2019

On Friday 14th June 2019 at North Tyneside Magistrates Court, the skipper owner of the Commercial fishing vessel ‘L’OGIEN K62” David Fairbairn pleaded guilty and received financial penalties for failing to comply with Northumberland Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority’s (NIFCA) Byelaws.

The court heard from Solicitor Andrew Oliver for NIFCA that on 12th of November 2018 the vessel was first identified within the NIFCA district using VMS (Vessel Monitoring System), showing speeds associated with trawling.  Suspicions were raised when the 17.75 metre vessel failed to transmit any AIS transmissions (Automatic Identification System), required by fishing vessels more than 15 metres in length, while operating inside the NIFCA district.

After monitoring fishing activity from the vessel on the 6th December 2018 the Authority had their Patrol vessel St Aidan intercept the fishing vessel at sea to inspect what gear was being operated.  The Master confirmed the vessel was twin rig fishing in breach of Northumberland IFCA Byelaw 1 “Trawling” which prohibits this gear type within its district. The master was instructed to lift his gear and further video evidence was obtained.

Andrew Oliver explained to the court the important work of NIFCA, particularly in respect to the Nephrop fishery, which has shown signs of over exploitation in recent years, so much so, a prohibition on twin rig trawling for the whole of the Farne Deeps Functional Unit was introduced by the Marine Management Organisation in 2016 to reduce fishing pressure within 12 nautical miles.  Mr Oliver highlighted the catching effectiveness of twin rig fishing, along with having an unfair advantage to other fishers operating lawfully within the Authorities district.

Mr Fairbairn was represented in court and in his mitigation stated that on all 5 trips being investigated by the Authority his vessel had only fished a single rig trawl, on the morning of the 6th December. After a poor haul the skipper decided to fish a twin rig trawl and it was at this time when the NIFCA patrol vessel carried out its interception.  As for the AIS not transmitting inside the NIFCA district, Mr Fairbairn had this checked at the first opportunity and it was found to have a fault he was unaware of.

Mr Fairbairn’s solicitor also stated that as the twin rig trawl had only fished for a short period the environmental impact would have been negligible.

In passing sentence, the Magistrate did not accept there would have been no environmental impact from the offence and ordered Mr Fairbairn to pay £2000 fine, £2800 NIFCA costs £400 for a share of the value of the catch landed, as well as £170 victim surcharge, totalling £5,370.

NIFCA Chief Officer Alastair Browne said, “the court clearly took these breaches of NIFCA Byelaws seriously by imposing substantial financial penalties on to the Master”.

The Officers and Members of the NIFCA are determined to maintain the sustainability of the stocks in the district by constantly regulating not only National Legislation but local Byelaws to protect the future shellfish stocks both for the present and future generations.