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Cornish fishing company ordered to pay nearly £30,000 for illegal scallop dredging offences

The following press release has been issued by the Cornwall Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA), which is a committee of Cornwall Council.

A Cornish fishing company has been ordered to pay nearly £30,000 in fines and costs for illegal scallop dredging offences committed in Cornish waters.

On Wednesday at Bodmin Magistrates Court Sarah Jane Fishing Ltd, the owner of the fishing vessel Cornish Gem PH819, was sentenced for three counts of using a dredge to remove scallops from the Cornwall Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA) district at a prohibited time of day.

This case was previously heard on last month at Truro Magistrates Court.

The company was ordered to pay a total of £29,904.48 which included a fine of £20,000 as well as prosecution costs and victim surcharge.

This was in addition to the £1,875 the master, Mark Manning (59) of Plymouth had previously been ordered to pay in November.

Magistrates had previously found Sarah-Jane Fishing Ltd guilty in respect of the three scallop dredging offences but adjourned sentencing of the company until this week, in order that the company accounts could be produced to the court. However, the company did not produce their accounts, or have any legal representation at the sentencing.

Cornwall IFCA has a byelaw prohibiting dredging for scallops between 7pm and 7am. This daily curfew period is designed to conserve the inshore scallop stock by limiting fishing effort to a sustainable level.

Cornwall IFCA officers analysed information on the Cornish Gem PH819, available to them through the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS), including position and speed.  They identified that this vessel had on several occasions been operating within the Cornwall IFCA district at prohibited times of the day. 

It was decided to prosecute for three events where the VMS evidence was sufficiently backed up by logbook, landings and sales data which corroborated the authority’s suspicion that scallop dredging was conducted during the curfew hours on  9th and 16th December 2022 and on 9th February 2023.

Sarah-Jane Fishing Ltd has been investigated by Cornwall Sea Fisheries Committee and Cornwall IFCA on three previous occasions for offences related to scallop dredging.  Two of these investigations resulted in court proceedings which resulted in the company pleading guilty and on one occasion they accepted a caution.

Simon Cadman, Cornwall IFCA’s Principal Enforcement Officer said, “The owners of fishing vessels have a legal responsibility, and liability, for the activities of their vessels. It was disappointing to find the same owner was investigated again for scallop dredging offences committed by one of their vessels.

"I hope the sentence handed down by the court in this instance, including a significant fine, serves to encourage any owner of a fishing vessel to take a keen interest in ensuring that its master and crew operate it within the law.” . 

Published 21 December, 2023

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