On Thursday the 18th of January at the Quayside Law Courts in Newcastle, Magistrates found Mr Charles “Michael” Denton of Atlee Terrace, Newbiggin by the Sea, guilty of breaching local fisheries legislation designed to protect key species along the Northumberland Coast. The verdict related to an incident in March 2023 when Mr Denton retained and landed an egg bearing Lobster.
The case was brought against Mr Denton, who did not attend court, by the Northumberland Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (NIFCA), which manages the inshore fishery along the Northumberland and North Tyneside coastline.
During the trial, Elizabeth Rowley of Andrew Jackson Solicitors prosecuting on behalf of NIFCA, informed the court that on the 15th of March 2023, Mr Denton, the owner and skipper of the commercial fishing vessel Talisman II BK 176, landed his catch at Blyth harbour. Enforcement officers from NIFCA conducted a landing inspection to ensure the catch complied with local and national legislation, finding that one Lobster was an egg bearing female.
Mr Denton had committed one offence as a NIFCA commercial shellfish permit holder, he had retained and carried a berried lobster aboard a vessel, contrary to NIFCA Byelaw 4. Crustacea and Mollusc Permitting and Pot Limitation and Section 163 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009.
After hearing evidence from an enforcement officer, the Bench found Mr Denton guilty in his absence. Noting Mr Denton’s high degree of culpability despite reasonably low harm to the fishery in this instance, as well as his previous convictions for fisheries offences, the Bench agreed to NIFCA’s request to disqualify Mr Denton from holding a shellfish permit to fish for 12 months, also ordering him to pay a fine of £480.00, a further £1,800.00 in prosecution costs and a victim surcharge of £192.00.
In 2022, Mr Denton was prosecuted by NIFCA for retaining 179 undersize Lobsters and for failing to comply with fisheries officers. He also has a number of other convictions for fisheries offences covering a 25-year period.
Nick Weir, lead enforcement officer for NIFCA, said: “The Authority is pleased the court recognises the importance of NIFCA byelaws and agreeing that Mr Denton should forfeit his right to a permit to fish along our coast. NIFCA did not take the decision lightly to request that Mr Denton be disqualified from holding a permit. The Authority believes Mr Denton’s continued disregard for legislation designed to protect fish stocks is unacceptable. Preventing shellfish from reproducing is a risk to the long-term sustainability of the fishery and affects the entire fishing community.
“Fishing in Northumberland is an economically sensitive activity and of great social importance to our local heritage and character. Our byelaws in conjunction with national legislation, balance the social, environmental, and economic needs of our stakeholders to promote healthy seas, sustainable fishing and a viable industry. To ensure this, NIFCA will vigorously pursue anyone who jeopardises the health of the fishery or fails to comply with our officers and legislation.”