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Fine for trawler skipper

PUBLISHED: 23:58 12 September 2008 | UPDATED: 21:16 05 July 2010

AN international inspection team boarded a Belgian trawler 20 miles off the coast of Lowestoft after the vessel was thought to be breaking fishing regulations.

AN international inspection team boarded a Belgian trawler 20 miles off the coast of Lowestoft after the vessel was thought to be breaking fishing regulations.

The skipper was bought ashore and appeared in court on Monday where he pleaded guilty to fishing with blinders in his trawl nets.

Frank Vendewalle, and the owners of the beam trawler Neptunus, were ordered to pay a total of £43,374 in fines and costs by Lowestoft Magistrates.

In the case, brought by the Marine and Fisheries Agency, magistrates levied fines of £34,000 to the value of the catch, £1,700 for each of four offences, and confiscated Neptunus's gear including both beams, shoes, nets and chains.

The bench heard it was the second time that the 37-year-old skipper, from Blankenberge, in Belgium, and owners Olympus NV, of Zeebrugge, had been caught using blinders - netting fitted inside the codend - in their trawl nets which prevents the release of immature fish.

The court was told that Neptunus was boarded at 10pm on Thursday, last week, by a UK-led international fishery inspection team taking part in a joint deployment plan for cod in the North Sea.

British, Belgian and Dutch fishery inspectors, working from the Dutch fishery protection vessel Barend Biesheuvel, boarded Neputus which was fishing for sole and plaice in the southern north sea.

In court, lawyers for the master and owners said the blinders were being used to protect the net from chaffing on rocks during bad weather.

After the case an MFP spokesman said: “The agency takes offences against the technical regulations very seriously and in particular when they are detrimental to the release of juvenile fish. The evidence in this case was overwhelming and in the agency's view this was a deliberate and cynical interference with the technical measures designed to protect immature fish.”

Last August the skipper and owners of Neptunus were ordered to pay a total of £35,800 in fines and costs after pleading guilty to a range of fishing offences - also at Lowestoft Magistrates Court.

On that occasion they were fined £2,000 each for using blinders and fined £10,000 for failing to record accurately in the fishing log book the amount of cod they had caught.

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