A Dutch fishing firm and one of its directors have been heavily fined for flouting fishing regulations off the Shoreham coast.
Adriaantje Holdings BV and its director, Paulus Romkes, pleaded guilty to four counts of failing to comply with community rules in relation to fishing at Worthing Magistrates’ Court this morning.
Chairman Barney Miller ordered the firm to pay a total of £42,821.25, while Mr Romkes was fined £4,589.25.
Between October 6 and October 11 last year, Mr Romkes skippered a fishing expedition in the English channel 40 miles south east of Shoreham in the Stella Polaris – a £1 million fishing vessel owned by Adriaantje Holdings BV.
During a routine boarding of the vessel by the crew of the Navy’s HMS Mersey, various offences were discovered. The Marine Management Organisation then made the decision to bring the boat into Shoreham Port for further investigation.
The court heard how Mr Romkes had failed to accurately declare the amount of fish landed, recording 18,159 kilogrammes rather than the actual amount of 19,466 kilogrammes; failed to accurately complete a fishing logbook of his activities, recording that he had caught a quantity of tope which was in fact smoothhound; failed to record the date and area of capture of 11.2 metric tonnes of haddock; retained on board a quantity of marine life, which did not comply with the minimum percentage of target species listed in the relevant annex for the mesh size of the codend (part of the trawl where fish are retained) in use by the vessel, namely 80 to 99 millimetres.
Addressing the court, Mr Romkes said: “We are fishing in three different areas with different rules. It’s very difficult for me to know all the rules. That’s why I’ve made a big mess of this trip. I make a big mess of it and made big mistakes in my logbook. I’m sorry for that. I know it’s my own fault. Maybe you can take pity.”
However, when imposing the fines, Mr Miller said: “You should have known the rules of the areas within which you fish. Ignorance and incompetence are not an excuse for a professional operator.”
Mr Miller added that the fines imposed would have been a third greater had Mr Romkes and his company not pleaded guilty.
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