Northumberland skipper fined £5,000 for breach of fishing byelaws

North Tyneside Magistrates Court, North Shields.North Tyneside Magistrates Court, North Shields.
North Tyneside Magistrates Court, North Shields.
A skipper has been ordered to pay more than £5,000 after breaching regulations while fishing off the Northumberland coast.

David Fairbairn, the skipper-owner of the commercial fishing vessel L’Ogien K62, pleaded guilty at North Tyneside Magistrates’ Court on June 14 for failing to comply with Northumberland Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority’s (NIFCA) byelaws.

He was ordered to pay a £2,000 fine, £2,800 NIFCA costs, £400 for a share of the value of the catch landed and a £170 victim surcharge, totalling £5,370.

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The court heard that the vessel was first identified using VMS (vessel monitoring system) within the NIFCA district, which runs from the Tyne up to the Scottish border, showing speeds associated with trawling on November 12 last year.

Suspicions were raised when the 17.75m vessel failed to transmit any AIS (automatic identification system) transmissions, required by fishing boats more than 15m in length.

On December 6, NIFCA patrol boat St Aidan intercept the fishing vessel at sea to inspect what gear was being operated, where it was confirmed to be twin-rig fishing in breach of the trawling byelaw which prohibits this gear within the district.

Andrew Oliver, representing NIFCA, explained to the court the important work of the authority, particularly in respect of the nephrop (a type of lobster) fishery, which has shown signs of over-exploitation in recent years, resulting in a prohibition on twin-rig trawling in 2016.

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In mitigation, Mr Fairbairn’s representative said that on all five trips being investigated by NIFCA, his vessel had only fished a single-rig trawl, but after a poor haul the skipper decided to fish a twin-rig and it was at this time that St Aidan carried out its interception.

In relation to the AIS not transmitting, Mr Fairbairn had this checked at the first opportunity and it was found to have a fault of which he was unaware.

Mr Fairbairn’s solicitor also stated that as the twin-rig trawl had only fished for a short period, the impact would have been negligible, but the magistrate did not accept there would have been no environmental impact.

NIFCA chief officer, Alastair Browne, said: “The court clearly took these breaches of NIFCA byelaws seriously by imposing substantial financial penalties on the master.”