On 28 November 2016 John Ward Agency (Fleetwood) Limited (a registered seller of fish operating from Fleetwood Market), pleaded guilty (through company director Mr Kenneth Hayton) to fisheries offences at Blackpool Magistrates Court.
The court heard how, on 18 September 2015, the MMO received information which led them to contact the company to confirm all of the relevant fish sales returns had been submitted for their business. During subsequent investigations by the MMO it was identified that the company had failed to submit 100 sales notes relating to sales of fish from various under 10 metre vessels, contrary to regulation 7(9) of the Registration of Fish Buyers and Sellers and Designation of Fish Auction Sites Regulations 2005.
A subsequent inspection of the merchant on 24 November 2015 conducted by MMO Marine Enforcement Officers and North West Inshore Fisheries Conservation Officers identified that John Ward Agency (Fleetwood) Limited offered for sale 47 plaice below the minimum landing size of 27cm, contrary to Article 19(3), as read with Article 17 and Annexe XII, of Council Regulation (EC) 850/1998, enforced through Section 30(1) of the Fisheries Act 1981.
The court ordered John Ward Agency (Fleetwood) Limited to pay a £1,200 fine (reduced from £1,800 in recognition of an early guilty plea), together with £1,045 investigations costs and a £120 victim surcharge.
A spokesman for the MMO said:
Whilst the court recognised that the non-submission of sales notes was a genuine error by John Ward Agency (Fleetwood) Limited and a product of a bad administrative process, the number of sales notes and the quantities of fish therein was significant. The court acknowledged it was vital that the MMO had a clear and accurate picture of the quantities of sea fish being landed and sold.
Hopefully this case emphasises the importance of accurate record keeping and the timely submission of sales notes by registered sellers of fish. It was a particularly positive aspect of the case that we were able to work closely with North West IFCA, which led to the detection of the undersized plaice which was being offered for sale.
The MMO will always look for opportunities to work with partner agencies to ensure the regulations relating to sustainable sea fisheries are adhered to.