A Cornish shellfish firm and the skipper of one of its vessels have been fined for offences relating to landing berried lobsters, reports Paul Scott.
Rowse Fishing Ltd and Ben Rowse, the owner and skipper of the vivier potter Emma Louise TO 60, pleaded guilty to the offences of fishing for berried, V-notched or mutilated lobsters at Truro Magistrates’ Court on 11 January. The prosecution was brought by Cornwall IFCA.
The firm was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs amounting to £6,309,90. Ben Rowse was fined £2,338 plus a victim surcharge of £190.
The berried lobsters were found during an inspection of the vessel by CIFCA officers on 19 May, 2022, in Newlyn harbour.
Ben Rowse told officers that he would not be landing the catch, but he drained the tanks to allow officers to inspect the catch onboard.
Officers found six berried lobsters, two V-notched lobsters and a mutilated lobster. They also noted that a large number of the female lobsters they inspected had tails with undersides that appeared to have undergone rough treatment, which led them to suspect this had been caused by deliberate scrubbing, using a brush, to remove any eggs.
There were a large number of lobster eggs around the deck and pot hauler, and officers also found eggs in the bristles of three scrubbing brushes which they discovered wrapped up in a deck stowage compartment.
CIFCA said this indicated that there were potentially a ‘number of berried lobsters which had not been detected due to their eggs having been forcibly removed to disguise offending’.
Simon Cadman, CIFCA’s principal enforcement officer, said: “It is essential that the rules designed to conserve lobsters and support a sustainable lobster fishery are followed by all fishermen.
“Anyone who knowingly takes berried and V-notched lobsters is demonstrating scant regard for the future of lobster fishing. This threatens a traditional way of life for hundreds of fishermen in Cornwall, with knock-on effects for fishing communities and shellfish-related businesses.
“The sentences imposed by magistrates on the owner and master of the Emma Louise reflect the seriousness of the offences, and it is hoped the financial penalties will deter them and others from similar behaviour.
“Officers will remain vigilant for illegal shellfish and continue to conduct inspections of fishing vessels all around Cornwall, at sea and in port, to check compliance with important fisheries legislation.”
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