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Illegal lobster catch lands fisherman in court

Elizabeth Rowley, an associate in Andrew Jackson Solicitors’ regulatory team, outlines a recent prosecution on behalf of Northumberland IFCA, resulting in illegally caught lobsters being returned to the sea.

We recently prosecuted a trial at North Shields Magistrates Court on behalf of the Northumberland IFCA (Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority), resulting in a fisherman being found guilty of landing 23 lobsters, which were a mix of berried (egg bearing) and undersized lobsters under a recreational permit.

Working in collaboration with the Environment Agency (EA), the Northumberland IFCA had intercepted the fisherman’s activity when a small recreational boat had been seen hauling numerous pots at Newbiggin-by-the-Sea. A guilty plea to breaching the Northumberland IFCA byelaws of exceeding the number of pots a recreational permit allows to be hauled had previously been entered, along with a guilty plea to landing more than two lobsters in any one day, under a recreational permit.

The Magistrates considered the Northumberland IFCA Byelaw three for crustacea conservation in relation to a person being prohibited from fishing for, removing, taking, landing, or offering for sale a berried lobster; they found the fisherman had taken berried lobsters and landed them. Having watched EA video footage of the conditions observed at the time by the EA and IFCA, the Magistrates did not accept the fisherman’s explanation that he could not see the berries on the lobster.

The Magistrates considered the Northumberland IFCA minimum size byelaw in relation to 21 lobsters, which clearly states that lobsters under 87mm must be returned to the sea immediately. The Magistrates found that 21 lobsters had been taken from the sea, landed and, when measured by the IFCA, were under the minimum size allowed of 87mm. They also did not accept the fisherman’s account that he had forgotten the measuring gauge and was about to go home to get it when he was stopped by the IFCA.

The fisherman was fined £480 for the breaches along with a victim surcharge of £192 and a contribution to the cost of the prosecution of £400.

An application was made under s164 of Marine and Costal Access Act asking the Court to consider a suspension or disqualification for the fisherman from holding or obtaining a recreational permit for the locality. The Magistrates felt that on this occasion the fisherman should not be suspended or disqualified from obtaining or holding a permit.

The effect of a suspension or disqualification in this circumstance would have meant that the  fisherman would not be allowed to lawfully fish, recreationally, for a period up to 12 months.

All 21 lobsters were returned to the sea by the Northumberland IFCA under the conservation policy.

Elizabeth Rowley is a highly experienced criminal advocate and practitioner, having previously worked for a number of high profile crime and legal aid practices. Within our Regulatory team, Elizabeth works closely with all types of businesses operating in different sectors and advises on how to protect their operations whilst ensuring best practice in all matters relating to regulation and compliance.

If Elizabeth and our Regulatory team can be of assistance to you and your business, please don’t hesitate to get in touch today by calling 01482 325242 or email

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