Fisher’s permit suspended due to lobster haul

One of NIFCA's smaller boats, which helps it carry out its vital work in the area.
One of NIFCA's smaller boats, which helps it carry out its vital work in the area.

A Blyth fisherman has been fined and had his permit suspended after breaching legislation, including landing undersized lobsters.

William Nelson Steel, of Lynndale Avenue, was stopped by Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Officers (IFCO) at Amble Marina earlier this year.

It is the first time that a permit has been suspended in the NIFCA (Northumberland Inshore Fisheries & Conservation Authority) district, which extends from the River Tyne to the Scottish border out to six nautical miles and up to the normal tidal limit of estuaries.

The organisation says that the ruling sends out a strong message to offenders.

Steel, a 66-year-old recreational potter, was prosecuted for using more than the permitted five pots; landing more than the permitted one lobster; and for catching 23 undersized lobsters.

North Tyneside Magistrates’ Court heard from NIFCA solicitor Andrew Oliver, who said that the offence happened on June 12.

Acting upon intelligence, officers stopped and inspected Steel’s vehicle at Amble and found the illegal catch.

One of the officers was wearing a body camera and recorded the inspection, during which Steel admitted that all of the lobsters were undersized, ranging from 56mm to 82mm – below the minimum permitted carapace length of 87mm.

Steel also admitted that he knew he could only work five pots and take one lobster per day under the provisions of NIFCA byelaw 4.

Mr Oliver told the court that NIFCA works to sustain shellfish fisheries and over the last few years it has undertaken lobster-stock assessments in the district, which had revealed the large number of undersized lobsters on the ground and that these need protecting.

In passing sentence last week, District Judge Begley suspended Steel’s permit until the end of the year. He also fined him £750, and ordered him to pay a total of £2,476, covering a fine and costs.

NIFCA chief officer Alastair Browne said: “It is particularly vital that undersized lobsters are not removed from the fishery and I’m grateful to our IFCOs for their attentive and professional work in detecting this case.”

NIFCA CEO Mike Hardy said: “The substantial financial penalty and suspending his permit sends out a strong message about how the courts view these cases. NIFCA is determined to maintain the sustainability of these stocks.”