THE NOVICE skipper of a trawler fishing out of Mevagissey has escaped a potential fine of more than £1million after failing to keep catch records and exceeding his haddock quota by more than 10,000kg.
Bracken Pearce, 20, of Market Square, Mevagissey, was ordered to pay just £2,650, despite admitting 23 charges of breaching conditions of a fishing licence between December 31, 2011 and July 27, 2012 – each of which carried a maximum penalty of £50,000.
At Truro Magistrates’ Court yesterday, Fred Howell, prosecuting for the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), said that an inquiry into the records of the of Cornish-registered stern trawler the Jessica Grace, was launched on August 30, last year, by marine enforcement officer David Milligan.
The vessel, registered FY807, landed at Newlyn, Mevagissey and Plymouth and was owned by Matthew Harrison, of Brook Street, Oldham, during the period under investigation.
Pearce, formerly of Penzance, was employed as skipper on the trawler. He was 18 and fishing single-handed for much of the time.
The court heard the 8.4m Jessica Grace had breached fishing vessel licence conditions by failing to keep an accurate logbook – required under the quota leasing scheme – for 15 landings between February and July 2012.
In that seven-month period the amount of haddock caught exceeded the vessel’s quota by 10,468kg – a quantity worth more than £16,000.
Pearce also admitted two charges of failing to submit a landing declaration in February.
Mr Howell said: “Mr Pearce said he had no training from the owner and was unaware of many of the responsibilities of a fishing vessel master including the rules of the quota leasing scheme.
“Mr Pearce’s explanation for his over-fish was that he was dyslexic and that he was not the only skipper, regarding failure to submit sales notes Mr Pearce said that he had posted them and could not account for them not being received.”
Richard Cogar, defending Pearce, said he was an inexperienced skipper: “He continues to fish; this time as a deck hand for another Mevagissey boat.
“He remains committed to being at sea. It is not as if he entered [the industry] for a year or so hoping to make a quick profit.”
Mr Cogar added that Mr Harrison, who bought the Jessica Grace for £100,000 in 2010 and sold it in August 2012, is believed to have left the country and that a warrant for his arrest has been issued.
Magistrates fined Pearce £1,500, ordered him to pay £1,000 towards costs of the inquiry and prosecution and a further £150 victim surcharge.