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Fisherman fined £1 after illegal scallop catch off Sussex coast
An angry fisherman goaded a crown court judge after being fined a pound for his part in the biggest case of illegally-hauled scallops in the UK.
Robert Johnston from North Road in Newbridge near Penzance pleaded guilty to illegally catching about 13 tonnes of scallops and his company was fined £25,350 at a sentencing committal at Lewes Crown Court on Thursday.
As master of the fishing vessel inspected by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) in Shoreham, Mr Johnston stood trial personally as well as his limited company, and was given a one pound fine – to which he pulled a pound out of his pocket and waved it at Judge Kemp from the dock.
The offence took place between October 17 and 23 last year when the scallop vessel Jacoba was on a week-long fishing expedition in the English Channel.
The vessel hauled in £32,000-worth of scallops during the voyage, but more than 46% of the catch was illegally caught to the value of about £17,000.
All scallops smaller than 110mm at their widest point should be thrown back into the sea by law to conserve and protect the mollusc’s populations.
David Buck, prosecuting, told the court how measuring tools were on board the vessel.
Speaking at the time of the inspection, the court heard how Mr Johnston, 52, said: “There’s no excuse for it, I’m disgusted. There’ll be four unemployed people in the morning.”
The fisherman, originally from Scotland, was referring to his four Philippine crewmen.
Dismissed Mr Johnston felt let down by his crew, and speaking outside court he said it was very difficult to maintain professional levels of training with foreign crewmen.
He said: “I can’t be down there on deck checking every catch – it’s just not possible.”
Oliver Powell, defending, told the court how the four crewmen were dismissed by Mr Johnston on October 26 after working for him for nearly eight months.
Paul Johnson, principal marine officer for the MMO, said: “This level of offence – the biggest in the history of the country – will hopefully be the catalyst to stopping this sort of thing happening again.
“Vessels are using cheap labour, but that mustn’t be to the detriment of the stocks and preservation of our species.”
The illegal scallops had to be sold because they were dead at the time of the inspection.
Robert Johnston and Co Ltd was fined £20,000 for the landing fish in contravention of article 19(1) of the Council Regulation and was forced to pay £5,350 in costs.
Mr Johnston himself was fined £1 and was forced to pay £120 in victim surcharges.
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