Northumberland fishing boat owner and skipper fined £5,000 after breaching byelaws over 69 lobsters

An illegal catch of lobsters ended up costing a Northumberland fishing boat skipper and owner more than £5,000.

Stock picture of a lobster from Pixabay
Stock picture of a lobster from Pixabay

Owner Jimmie Dawson and skipper Mark Stephenson of the coble Endeavour BK241, both from Newbiggin, pleaded guilty to the landing of 69 lobsters under the minimum legal size as well as two berried (egg-bearing) lobsters at North Tyneside Magistrates Court earlier this month.

Stephenson was ordered to pay a total of £2,380 in fines, costs and victim surcharge, while Dawson ended up with a bill for £2,775.

Andrew Oliver, representing Northumberland Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (NIFCA), told the court that Endeavour was inspected by NIFCA officers when the vessel had been hauled up onto the beach at Newbiggin on March 26 this year.

Three boxes of lobster were landed, but a full inspection revealed three plastic drums covered in damp carpet in what is known as the dodger, at the bow of the vessel, which were filled with undersized lobsters.

Meanwhile, officers also discovered two berried hen lobsters – which it is illegal to land – in the main catch, as well as three hand brushes with a number of lobster eggs on the bristles, potentially evidence of scrubbing female lobsters to remove the eggs.

The minimum legal size of an 87mm carapace length is not an arbitrary figure, but is the size at which lobsters are deemed to reach reproductive maturity.

In mitigation, magistrates heard that Dawson, the owner, had reprimanded the skipper and impressed upon Stephenson and his other crew the importance of knowing and observing the rules that govern their fishing.

NIFCA deputy chief officer Mark Southerton said: “The court clearly took these offences seriously and imposed substantial financial penalties on both the owner and the skipper.

“NIFCA feels that this case sends out an important message that undersized shellfish should be returned to the sea immediately, as is also the case with berried lobsters.”

NEIFCA inshore fisheries and conservation officers (IFCs) enforce a wide range of legislation including United Kingdom, European and local Byelaw regulations, throughout the Authority’s jurisdiction.

A cross warranting programme is also in place with the Environment Agency enabling Officers to enforce a wide range of freshwater fisheries regulations.