Guilty of fishing in conservation area

A Moville fisherman has been told to pay a total of 24,000 euro after the boat he was master of was detected fishing in a designated conservation area.

Cara Rawdon pleaded guilty to the offence at Letterkenny Circuit Court, where it was heard the detection took place on May 7th and 8th 2010 when he was master of the fishing vessel, ‘Catherine R.’

On May 13th, 2012, the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority received a report that the vessel had been in Rockhill Bank, a prohibited area. Fisheries protection officers boarded the vessel at Greencastle and detained it. Documents including the log book were checked and Rawdon was shown the plotting of the vessel, taken from the fisheries monitoring centre. Rawdon said that from his own plotting, he felt their position had been “ok.” Fisheries officer Mr Healy told the court the reading of the plotting showed the vessel was travelling at a “fishing speed” of six knots.

He said it could be seen from the monitoring that the vessel entered and exited the conservation area and the log books showed they had been fishing there.

Mr Healy said the vessel and its catch, valued at 23,246.49 euro as well as its gear, valued at 3,600 euro was detained. The catch was released to Foyle Fisheries Co-op - which Rawdon was a member of - with a stipulation that a cheque would be written to the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority for its valued amount when it was sold. The cash would then be held as a bond until any court case was completed. The court heard this was undertaken, however an “administrative error” meant it was never cashed.

Defence barrister Mr Peter Nolan said Rawdon had “in good faith” paid over what he had been asked to and this cheque was then allowed to lapse.

The court heard the gear which was detained included two trawl doors, one net and 800 metres of metal rope.

Mr Nolan said Rawdon “got nothing for his fish” and lost his catch. The court heard that following conviction, there was a mandatory forfeiture of gear and catch.

Mr Nolan pointed out it has been five years since the offence and no-one had made any demand of Rawdon or Foyle Fisherman’s Co-Op. He said Rawdon’s boat has been sold, so he has “no power” over it.

“If equipment was going to be seized it should have been seized at the time,” he said, adding the State was asking Judge John O’Hagan to “make an impossible order.”

Mr Nolan added that Rawdon had pleaded guilty to “steaming in and out” of the conservation zone.

He said Rawdon has been a fisherman all his life and has had a number of boats. He added he is married, with four daughters who have “all done extremely well.”

Mr Nolan said there was a seven-man crew on the Catherine R, who were working on a “share basis.”

Judge O’Hagan said he could make an order of the court, making a value on the catch and gear and fine Rawdon that amount of money.

He added he was not fining Rawdon in the “strict sense of the word.”

He valued the gear at 2,000 euro and valued the catch at 22,000 euro.

Judge O’Hagan added that an “awful lot” of water had passed under the bridge since the offence and said the total fine was 24,000 euro.

He said that if the fine was paid, then the cheque paid to the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority should be destroyed.

He added that if the cheque could be re-dated and cashed, then the amount due to be paid by Rawdon would be the balance of 24,000 euro.