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Master of Fishing Vessel Convicted at Cork Circuit Criminal Court for Offences Relating to Illegal Mesh use and Failing to Record Discards Daily

Master of Fishing Vessel Convicted at Cork Circuit Criminal Court for Offences Relating to  Illegal Mesh use and Failing to Record Discards Daily

David Rene Daniel Laouenan, the Master of French registered vessel “Ferreira Martinez”, pleaded guilty to illegal fishing activity at Cork Circuit Criminal Court on the 3rd of May 2024. The vessel was detained at Castletownbere port on the 21st of April 2024 following an inspection by officials onboard the European Fisheries Control Agency patrol vessel “Ocean Guardian” and Sea-Fisheries Protection Officers of the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA).

The Court heard evidence of how officers conducted an at-sea inspection of the fishing vessel’s nets whereby the average mesh size of the nets was smaller than the minimum dimensions legally required for fishing activities in the area. The Court heard evidence of how below minimum legal-size catches of Megrims were detected following an inspection of the catch and the presentation of such catches by the Defendant to officers.

The Court heard further evidence that, following questioning by officers and the detection of discarding practices, the Defendant admitted to recording discards at the end of a fishing trip, whereas catches and discards must be recorded in the fishing logbook on a daily basis.

In sentencing the Defendant, the Court remarked that the mesh size requirements are necessary for the “sustainability of fisheries in EU waters” and “allows younger fish to escape and replenish stocks”. The Court convicted the Defendant and imposed a fine of €5,000 in respect of the charge of failing to comply with the mesh size requirements. The Court further convicted the Defendant in respect of the logbook charge and imposed a fine of €1,000. The Court ordered the forfeiture of €35,000 from the value of the catch and gear. A bond for the value of the catch and gear, fines and costs had been previously entered into.

An SFPA spokesperson commented:

“The SFPA notes the seriousness the Court attached to these infringements having regard to the comments and decision of the Court. Masters and owners of fishing vessels must ensure ongoing compliance with mesh size requirements for gear onboard in order to comply with the regulations which are in place to ensure the sustainability of fish stocks and future fishing activities for the fishing community. The detection of below minimum reference size catches onboard the vessel underscores the need for compliance with these requirements. Similarly, the assessment of stocks in Irish and EU waters relies on accurate data being recorded and this includes recording of discards, including species which are subject to the Landing Obligation rules, at least on a daily basis. The accurate assessment of stocks based on fishing and catch data is a key tool to ensure the sustainable management of fish stocks and fishing. The SFPA commends its EFCA colleagues, Sea-Fisheries Protection Officers and members of An Garda Síochána for their diligence in this extensive inspection and detention.”