Ocean Rover Limited were represented by the company director, Mr Kenneth Liddell and Mr Gerry Lafferty - the owner and master of the Ocean Rover (SN2) fishing vessel.
Vessel master, Gerry Lafferty, pleaded not guilty to the offences and will next appear in Crown Court on 18 March 2016.
Vessel owner Kenneth Liddell pleaded guilty to five offences and was ordered to pay a total financial penalty of £17,469.50 including a contribution towards the costs of the prosecution.
The court heard how the vessel was accused of quota offences for whiting, plaice and nephrops species together with two incursions into closed fishing areas. The vessel, a member of the 10 metre and over non-sector, was subject to limits on the quantity of certain species it was allowed to retain on board and land. The court was told that in January 2015 the vessel landed 510 kg of whiting in excess of the monthly limit, in May 2015 the vessel landed 10,214 kg of plaice in excess of the monthly limit and in the quarter ending September 2015 the vessel landed 7,272 kg of nephrops. The total first sale value of the fish landed in excess of quota limits was £23,274.00
Additionally, the court heard that on two occasions in August 2015 the vessel was reported to be in a real time closure area, MMO 587, at speeds consistent with fishing activities, contrary to a condition in its fishing vessel licence. Real time closure areas have been agreed by the UK with the EU as a conservation method in return for an additional allocation of fishing effort in the cod recovery zone.
The company highlighted to the court in mitigation that it had entered the fishing industry as an investment opportunity had limited knowledge of the rules and regulations of the fishing industry and was , therefore, reliant on its employees who operated the vessel on a day to day basis.
The court was also told that, as a result of these offences, six points per offence will be applied to the vessel’s fishing vessel licence in accordance with the provisions of the EU control regulation (EC) 1224/2009 and in accordance with the MMO’s guidance on the operation of the points system. Owing to the accumulation of 30 points, the vessel’s licence is to be suspended for two months.
The case against the master is ongoing.
A spokesman for the MMO said:
“This prosecution has been brought by the MMO to ensure the activities of law abiding fishermen who comply with quota restrictions and closed areas are not undermined by those who do not abide by them. In this case fisheries patrols and Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) data were combined to detect and provide evidence to the court of these offences. Fisheries offences of this nature do not allow for a level playing field amongst operators. The MMO recognises that the majority of fishing vessel operators comply with the relevant regulations, but where infringements are detected will apply its compliance and enforcement strategy proportionately and will reserve use prosecution as a last resort, reserved for the most serious offences.”