Commercial Fisherman Fined Over £12,000 for Multiple Offences

Northumberland Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (NIFCA) has successfully prosecuted a commercial fisher £12,500 for contravening fisheries legislation.

On Thursday the 13th of October 2022, Mr Neal Priestley of Seahouses, Northumberland, appeared at North Shields Magistrates Court for four breaches of national fisheries legislation and NIFCA byelaws.

The case was brought against Mr Priestley by NIFCA who manage the inshore fishery along the Northumberland and North Tyneside coastline.

Andrew Oliver of Andrew Jackson Solicitors prosecuting on behalf of NIFCA, informed the court that on the 25th of February 2022 Mr Priestley, the owner and master of the fishing vessel Mary May BK140, landed his catch at Seahouses harbour. Fisheries Officers inspecting the catch found a number of prohibited shellfish or their commercially valuable parts, including from sections of the catch that the crew had concealed from officers during their initial inspection.

Mr Oliver explained to the court that the offences found were of an environmental nature, breaching national and local legislation created to protect fish stocks and to gather accurate information to aid fisheries management.

Mr Priestley had committed four offences:

  1. Fished for and landed two egg bearing Lobsters contrary to the Lobster and Crawfish Order No 874/2000 and the Seafish (Conservation) Act 1967.
  2. Landed the detached parts (tails) of 42 Lobsters, contrary to NIFCA Byelaw 3 Crustacea Conservation 2019.
  3. Landed Edible Crab claws weighing in excess of 10% of his vessels catch, contrary to NIFCA Byelaw 3 Crustacea Conservation 2019.
  4. Failed to send accurate information regarding his catch to NIFCA, contrary to NIFCA Byelaw 4 Crustacea and Molluscs Permitting and Pot Limitation.

Mr Priestley who was represented by Stuart Athey of Hadaway and Hadaway Solicitors pleaded guilty to all four offences.

After taking into consideration Mr Priestley’s early guilty plea, the court-imposed penalties of £615 for the negligent landing of the egg bearing Lobsters. £3,076 for the deliberate landing of parts of Lobsters. £3,076 for the deliberate landing of detached crab claws and £3,076 for failing to send accurate information to NIFCA. A victim surcharge of £190 and costs of £2,914.88 were also awarded. In total Mr Priestley was ordered to pay £12,947.88 for committing these offences.

Nick Weir, Lead Enforcement officer for NIFCA, said: “The Authority is pleased that the court recognises the importance of the national fisheries legislation and NIFCA byelaws that are essential for protecting the commercially sensitive stocks in our district.

“The protection of juvenile shellfish, breeding stocks and the accurate reporting of catch and effort are crucial to the fishery and NIFCA will vigorously pursue any individual or company that disregards regulations. Fishing for shellfish in Northumberland is vitally important to commercial fishers who currently have well documented and publicised pressures on their industry, especially around the Farne Islands and Holy Island where Mr Priestley fishes.

“At a time of unparalleled cooperation and understanding between fishers and the Authority, NIFCA will do everything in its power to prevent both ecological harm and reputational damage in an area where the very future of the fishing industry could be at stake.

“NIFCA is confident that this case is an anomaly, in a well-managed and enforced area and should not tarnish the reputation or future of the local industry. Fishing in Northumberland is an economically sensitive activity and of great social importance to our local heritage and character. Our Byelaws balance the social, environmental and economic needs of our stakeholders to promote healthy seas, sustainable fishing and a viable industry.”