Fisherman refused to dump dead fish back into the sea
JURY DECIDES KILMORE SKIPPER NOT GUILTY OF FISHING OVER QUOTA
WEXFORD Circuit Criminal Court was told that the Master of a Kilmore Quay fishing vessel refused to dump good healthy fish back overboard into the sea which led to his being prosecuted for fishing over the quota.
Defence Solicitor, Cormac Dunleavy told the jury that his client, Paul Keating, of Newtown, Kilmore Quay, maintained a similar stance to that of his father by refusing to dump good fish back into the sea. He said that there had been lots of controversy regarding the method of fishing where dead fish was put back into the sea, a law that is to be changed next year.
‘My client’s father, Johnny Keating has been protesting for many years to have this changed and as a moral protest refused to dump dead fish back into the sea. His son, Paul, the defendant in this case for fishing over quota, has worked with his father for the past ten years and also objects to putting dead fish back into the sea,’ said Mr. Dunleavy.
Paul Keating pleaded not guilty to on or between May 1, 2015, and October 12, 2015, being the Master of the Irish Sea Fishing Boat ‘Bridget Carmel’ landins quanties of sole in excess of quotas applicable to a fishing boat 55 feet in length. He also pleaded not guilty to two similar type charges relating to cod and also to skate and ray.
Prosecuting Counsel, Sinead Gleeson, told the court that the Sea authority regulates sea fishing around the two hundred mile radius of the Irish waters, while also conserving fish stocks in Irish waters.
She said that Liam Kennedy, a Sea Fisheries Officer, was carrying out a check on October 1, 2015, into the date system, where all fishing vessels have certain obligations such as a log book which they keep electronically.
She said that when Mr. Kennedy accessed the log book of the Bridget Carmel he noticed that on that particular date was this vessel was catching and keeping fish in excess of the quota.
In evidence, Liam Kennedy, a Sea Fisheries Protection Officer based in Howth, said that on October 12, 2015, he came to the conclusion there were several breaches of the catch by the Bridget Carmel. He said he had looked at 85 vessels in total during his check
To support his evidence, Mr. Kennedy provided detailed tables to the jury which were prepared from the log book.
In response to questions from Mr. Dunleavy, for the defence, he said he was aware of the protests and the refusal of Mr. Keating and his father to dump fish back into the sea, adding that once lifted it’s unlikely cod and haddock would still be alive on reaching the vessel.
Mr. Dunleavy put it to Mr Kennedy that he did not visit the vessel to check the catchand that the check was all carried out electronically. Replying, Mr. Kennedy said he did not seize the fish but was aware of the catch.
However, Mr. Dunleavy said this was a routine desktop investigation carried out on October 12, 2015, knowing what had happened two days previously when his client was put off the seas for two months, a penalty in itself with the loss of wages.
He said Mr Keating was put off the sea for the very charges before the court. He also said this is a system that is to be changed next year, where it would be a prosecution to dump the fish back into the sea, but the fishing vessel would have to bring the fish back to port where it would be weighed.
In summing up, Sinead Gleeson, for the prosecution, said it’s the responsibility of the Master of a fishing boat to know the quota which is published every month. She said the vessel was 329.6 kg over quota in relation to sole, well outside the 10% margin of error. In relation to cod he was 457.47kg over quota.
Mr. Dunleavy said Mr. Keating is a 30-year-old single man. He told the jury that while this is a criminal offence, the only evidence they had heard is what was supplied by his client. He said that in this case someone is going to a computer screen and that, following the information filed by the defendant himself, calculating figures, percentages and quotas. Mr. Dunleavy said that in previous cases, Mr Kennedy spoke of visiting boats to carry out checks, but he did not do this in relation to the Bridget Carmel and he could have visited the vessel.
Summing up, Judge Quinn said that fishing vessels are obliged to keep a log book and each boat can only catch a certain amount of fish. In this case Mr. Kennedy said the Bridget Carmel caught fish in excess of the quota.
The accuracy of the data submitted by the Master is the responsibility of the Master, said the Judge. The prosecution case is based on the logs he filled out. The present case is that the accused was a considerable amount over the quota.
Judge Quinn told the jury that the Defence case is that the only evidence is that supplied by the accused himself. The Fishing Officer could have visited the vessel and had the fish weighed, but he never physically went to inspect the fish, instead accessing electronic data of the Bridge Carmel and, from that, coming to the conclusion there were several breaches of catch over quota.
Judge Quinn, having considered a legal application from Mr. Dunleavy, told the jury that a not guilty verdict could be entered in relation to skate and ray, the third charge.
The jury returned after an absence of one hour and 37 minutes and returned a unanimous not guilty verdict in relation to counts one and two.