A FISHING trawler skipper whose bank account is overdrawn has been ordered to pay €40,000 in fines after being found guilty of illegally landing fish worth less than €3,500 at Killybegs.
Sean Flaherty, who is 64 and from Rossaveel in County Galway, had fought a prosecution case over five days in front of a jury.
He was found guilty on two counts of failing to accurately record his catch of herring in November 2003.
The jury found him not guilty of a third alleged offence and failed to reach a verdict on a fourth charge.
However Judge Keenan Johnson said there were several aggravating factors in the case, one of them being that Flaherty had stone-walled Gardai from the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation who were brought in to investigate the case.
The prosecution centred on official paperwork.
Flaherty would record that he landed smaller catches on his official logbook; but invoices from fish agents and processors showed he had landed much larger catches.
His extra profit from the two landings was just short of €3,500.
However the judge said the case went to the heart of fisheries protection, not least the protection of fishermen like Mr Flaherty.
Over-fishing, he said, would ultimate hurt all those involved in the fishing industry.
The State, said Judge Johnson, had put “enormous resources” into the case and the protection of fisheries.
He gave Flaherty credit, saying he had worked at sea since the age of 17 and had never been before the courts.
Flaherty was fined €20,000 on each charge.
Defence barrister Damian Crawford, who earlier said his client was overdrawn on his bank account, asked that time be given to pay the fines.
The judge agreed to give the Galway man 12 months to pay the first €20,000 fine and two years to pay the second fine.