A Donegal Judge said that EU legislation on fishing regulation was “extremely complicated” as he passed sentence on a trawler skipper who pleaded guilty to several offences at Letterkenny Circuit Court.
Jonathan Kenny of Chestnut Grove, Viewmount, Waterford, initially pleaded not guilty to failing to facilitate an inspection by a sea fish protection body at Greencastle Pier on December 13, 2013.
He had also contested a charge of fishing in an un-authorised area on a date between November 1, 2013 and December 13, 2013 and failing to have a stowage plan for Monkfish on dates between December 6 and 13.
After a jury was sworn in to hear the case, Kenny asked to be re-arraigning and changed his plea on all counts.
The court heard that the vessel, the Saltees Quest, was based at Dunmore East and while not owned by the defendant was being skippered by him at the time.
Fisheries Officer John Hederman said the vessel had traveled up the Irish Sea to fish grounds off north Donegal and netted a haul valued at €7,000 before bad weather forced them into Greencastle harbour.
While the vessel did have quota it was prohibited from fishing the area at the time as a matter of helping conserve fish stocks.
The Monkfish was a “high value” fish and was required to have a written stowage plan in place in the event of an inspection by officers.
He added that they sealed off the boat and when they arrived the next day the seals had been broken and they were subjected to abuse and intimidation from crew members.
Barrister for the state, Patricia McLaughlin BL outlined that it was the ship masters job to control the crew during such inspections.
Defence barrister, Richard Lyons SC, said his client had been fishing 17 years and skippering for eight years, without any previous convictions.
He said he misinterpreted the legislation and believed he was entitled to fish “Area six” at the time and made no secret he was there.
He claimed he used over 5,00 litres of fuel to get there and the catch, valued at €7,000, was a low yield just prior to Christmas and the crews frustration was brought out on the inspectors.
Judge John O’Hagan said such measures were in place to help conserve fish stocks but added fishing legislation was “extremely complex”.
He highlighted the dangers posed by the occupation as it contained “a lot of risk”, and noted fisheries officers also had a difficult job.
The judge said a catch worth €7,000, when divided out among the crew and expenses, meant there “ain’t a lot left”. He noted his plea and previous good record and fined him €1,000 on each count as well as the value of the catch, totaling €10,000.