Lobster fishermen in court

A FISHERMAN and his grandson have been given conditional discharges after landing undersized lobsters and fishing without a permit.

Ryan Douglas, 19, and Thomas Douglas, 69, both of Lewins Lane, Holy Island, pleaded guilty to both charges.

However, Berwick Magistrates’ Court heard last week that the pair had not had a second chance to measure the 40 lobsters they landed, and only two were undersized, both one millimetre below the legal length to be landed.

The court heard that Thomas Douglas, 69, had a licence and permit to fish for shellfish, but not for the boat on which he and his grandson had hauled in the pots on the day in question.

The bench dismissed an application for court costs of more than £1,200 from the solicitor prosecuting on behalf of Northumberland Inshore Fisheries and Conservaton Authority (NIFCA). Instead, it ordered both men to pay £50 towards costs.

Noel Dilks, prosecuting, told the court that NIFCA officers had been at Holy Island on the morning on August 22 and had been watching two men in a small boat hauling in lobster pots just off the coast.

When the pair moored, they unloaded two boxes and took them to a chiller unit by quad bike. NIFCA officers approached Ryan Douglas and asked him to open the boxes.

He opened one to reveal bait, but then did not open the other when asked by the officer, who opened it himself and discovered a large quantity of lobsters.

Mr Dilks said that at this point Thomas Douglas approached and, when asked, he denied having hauled in any pots that day, even after the NIFCA officers said they had photographic evidence.

Mr Dilks said the two undersized lobsters were returned alive to the sea. He added that both men were of good character.

Ian O’Rourke, defending, said that Thomas Douglas had been fishing from Holy Island for 54 years and was the majority owner of the Jenna H fishing boat and held the relevant permit and licences.

Mr O’Rourke said: “On that day the Jenna H was four miles away at Berwick fishing and his son was on it. His grandson’s aunt, who runs a family hotel, had a family function and said ‘I’m really desperate, I really need 40 lobsters, I’ll be down at 10am.’”

He said that the defendants then got into a small boat, a tender usually used to reach the Jenna H when it is moored in deeper water, and went out to haul in their own pots.

He added that it was very difficult to accurately measure the lobsters in the dark, on a boat which was rocking around, and said that when they returned to shore they would always re-measure them and throw back any undersized.

Mr O’Rourke emphasised that if the pair had been on the Jenna H and had landed the lobsters there would not have been any charge in relation to the permits.

He added: “This was not a commercial venture to make any money at all, in fact it was the reverse.”

Both men received six-month conditional discharges.