Recreational shellfish gatherer fined for conservation breaches
A Berwick resident has pleaded guilty to three counts of breaching Northumberland Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (NIFCA) byelaws.
A court heard that Heng Shun Zhu was observed illegally gathering shellfish on the shoreline in the local area.
The case was brought against him by NIFCA, which manages the inshore fishery along the Northumberland and North Tyneside coastline.
Andrew Oliver of Andrew Jackson Solicitors, prosecuting on behalf of NIFCA, told magistrates that the observation took place on September 21 last year and when challenged and his catch inspected by the authority’s officers, Mr Zhu was found to be in possession of 17 lobsters – in breach of NIFCA’s ‘Crustacea and Mollusc, Permitting and Pot Limitation’ byelaw, which restricts catches of non-permit holders to one lobster per day.
All the lobsters in Mr Zhu’s possession failed to meet minimum conservation reference sizes, breaching NIFCA’s ‘Emergency Minimum Conservation Reference Size’ byelaw.
During the inspection, one of the lobsters was also found to be soft-shelled, a breach of NIFCA’s ‘Crustacea Conservation’ byelaw.
NIFCA says the byelaws are essential in ensuring an important local fishery remains sustainable and juvenile lobsters are allowed to reach maturity, where they can breed and contribute to a sustainable stock.
Mr Zhu was not represented at Newcastle Magistrates' Court.
The magistrates took into consideration his early guilty plea, forthright apologies and lack of understanding of fisheries legislation and in passing sentence, Mr Zhu was fined £164 and ordered to pay costs to the sum of £400, and a £30 victim surcharge.
NIFCA chief executive Mike Hardy said: “The authority is very happy with the court’s findings and the message of support it has shown for the work we do.
“Fishing for lobsters in Northumberland is vitally important to commercial fishers and a source of great enjoyment for responsible recreational gatherers.
“Our byelaws balance the social, environmental and economic needs of our stakeholders to promote healthy seas, sustainable fishing and a viable industry.
“Northumberland is blessed with a truly beautiful coastline, which is an increasingly popular place for the general public to spend their leisure time.
“I would advise anyone who wishes to fish and gather shellfish to visit our website – www.nifca.gov.uk – and check that what they are doing is within our byelaws so they can help us to keep it that way.”