A scallop trawler skipper and his company have been fined £12,000 after they were caught fishing in conservation areas off Salcombe and Dartmouth.
Martyn Rogers blamed an error in a navigation device after his boat the Amy R dredged for scallops in forbidden zones twice within the space of eight days.
He brought up more than four tons of shellfish, worth more than £6,000, but his route was tracked on GPS by officers from the Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority.
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The Brixham based vessel is fitted with a transponder which enables officials to download an exact map of its movements on May 24 and 31 last year.
The charts showed Rogers fishing in a restricted conservation area South of Salcombe on the first date and on the edge of another zone between Berry Head and Dartmouth on the second.
Rogers, aged 65, of Victoria Road, Brixham, and Amy R Trawlers Ltd both admitted two counts of fishing in breach of their permits.
They were originally fined a total of £29,000 by Plymouth Magistrates but this was reduced to £12,000 with £3,153 costs at an appeal at Exeter Crown Court.
The new fine is made up of £4,000 for each offence by the company and £2,000 for each offence by Rogers.
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Judge Peter Johnson ruled that magistrates had been too harsh in ruling that the harm done by the offences had been high because they undermined the conservation system.
Sitting with two lay magistrates, he decided they should be categorised in a lesser band and the fines should be reduced accordingly.
He said:”We have heard what has been said about inaccurate navigational gear. It seems to us this was a deliberate act to fish in that area.
“There were two pieces of fishing taking place over a number of hours where the bottom was dredged close to an area where it would be unlawful.”
Mr Chris Cuddihee, prosecuting, provided charts produced by fisheries conservation officers which showed the movement of the Amy R on the two days.
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One of the areas is permanently off limits for dredging and the other was restricted to a few months, not including May.
He said it was possible to see where the vessel had been dredging because it slowed down when it was working. On each occasion the scalloper landed its catch at Brixham and sold it for a total of £6,176.
He said:”Our case is that he deliberately fished in these area as a deliberate act and that significantly undermined the regulatory arrangements.”
Mr Cuddihee said Rogers had received four verbal warnings for similar offences in 2016.
Mr Kevin Hopper, defending, said a navigational device which Rogers used to track fishing areas was found to be wrongly calibrated with a potential error of 0.44 nautical miles.
He said he thought he was fishing on the edge of the conservation area when in fact he was inside it.
He accepted that he should have noticed the discrepancy with his main GPS set because he is a very experienced skipper who knows the area very well.
Rogers is the only director and shareholder of the company and so the large fines on it imposed by magistrates were effectively a direct penalty on him.