Family of fishermen ordered to pay £5,000 after breaching NIFCA rules about tagging shellfish pots

A family of commercial fishermen from Northumberland has had to pay over £5,000 after breaching conservation rules.
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Three members of the Armstrong family, from Blyth and Newbiggin, were each fined by magistrates after an incident in July 2023 where their fishing pots were inspected at sea and found to be missing or have incorrect identification tags attached.

A case was brought against David Armstrong Snr, David Armstrong Jnr, and Christopher Armstong by the Northumberland Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (NIFCA), which manages the inshore fishery along the North Tyneside and Northumberland coast.

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On February 8, Newcastle-upon-Tyne Magistrates Court heard that NIFCA enforcement officers were undertaking routine inspections of fishing pots at sea near Whitley Bay and found a fleet of 40 pots whose surface markers stated they were set from the Wendy Patricia BH22, a potting vessel owned and operated by the Armstrong family.

The rules breach was discovered during a routine NIFCA inspection. (Photo by NIFCA)The rules breach was discovered during a routine NIFCA inspection. (Photo by NIFCA)
The rules breach was discovered during a routine NIFCA inspection. (Photo by NIFCA)

Upon inspection, the individual pots either had no mandatory NIFCA pot tags attached or they displayed tags allocated to another vessel owned by the family.

The three men all pleaded guilty to fishing for shellfish using pots without tags issued to the commercial permit holder and named vessel affixed.

The court determined that the actions of the defendants were negligent but did not cause harm to the fishery.

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Christopher and David Armstrong Snr, the owners of the Wendy Patricia BH22, were each fined £433 and told to pay a victim surcharge of £173 and costs of £1,300.

David Armstrong Jnr, as master of the vessel, was ordered to pay a £300 fine, a £120 victim surcharge, and £780.00 in costs.

Nick Weir, lead enforcement officer for NIFCA, said: “Pot limitation is a fundamental method of managing the fishing effort within the NIFCA district to ensure that stocks of key species are only caught at a sustainable level.

“All pots set within the district for both commercial and recreational fishers must be affixed with NIFCA tags which are issued under our permit schemes.

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“Fishing in Northumberland is an economically sensitive activity and of great social importance to our local heritage and character.

“Our byelaws, in conjunction with national legislation, balance the social, environmental, and economic needs of our stakeholders to promote healthy seas, sustainable fishing, and a viable industry.”