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Court quota skippers say they face ruin  
by John Baker

Western Morning News

28th September 2005
Two leading members of the Brixham fishing community have thrown their future in the industry into doubt after a Newton Abbot court fined them heavily for breaking European and UK fishing regulations.

The two skippers - Peter Boyce and David Blower - say they could face financial ruin and the latter has already sold his trawler to help pay the fines.  They were part of a group of four fishing masters and two companies that were fined more than £60,000 for breaching EC and UK fishing regulations.  The Department for Food and Rural Affairs prosecuted the defendants for over-fishing offences dating back three years to 2002.  Each related to failing to accurately keep a logbook recording the location of catches or interfering with satellite tracking devices to mask their exact geographical position while at sea.

David Blower, 41, of Parkham Lane, Brixham; Adrian Foster, 32, of Ranscombe Road, Brixham, and the company, Langdon and Blower Ltd, of Paignton, all pleaded guilty to 26 charges relating to fishing trips on the beam trawler Our Johanna between January and April 2002.

Blower was fined a total of £1,000 - £200 for each of five logbook offences and nothing for five satellite offences.

Foster was fined £600 - £200 for each of three logbook offences and nothing for the satellite offences.

Langdon and Blower Ltd was fined £25,000 - £5,000 for the first five charges and nothing for the remaining five, with £2,860 costs.

In a second case, Peter Boyce, 39, of Penn Meadows Close, Brixham, pleaded guilty to 26 similar offences relating to 13 fishing trips on the vessel Christina between January and April 2002.

His company, the Christina Fishing Co, of Brixham, pleaded guilty to 12 logbook charges over the same period.

Boyce was fined £2,800 - £200 for each of the 14 logbook offences and nothing for the satellite offences.

Christina Fishing was fined £21,000 - £3,000 each of the first seven logbook offences and nothing for the rest, with £2,750 costs.

In a third hearing, Stephen Trust, 45, of Elkins Hill, Brixham, pleaded guilty to 14 charges relating to seven trips on his vessel, the Jacomina, between July and November 2002.

Trust was fined £14,000 - £2,000 for each of the seven logbook offences and nothing for the satellite offences, with £3,000 costs.

After Monday's court hearings, both Boyce and Blower attacked DEFRA’s handling of their cases and said they might never return to the fishing industry.

Boyce said he could face financial ruin, blaming the poor state of the fishing industry and high fuel prices.

Blower has since sold his boat, Our Johanna, and also expressed doubts over whether he would return to the industry.

DEFRA carried out its investigations into the Brixham fishing industry in a bid to crack down on skippers flouting EC quotas relating to Dover sole.

Many skippers were catching the sole in the Western Channel but then recording them as having been caught in the Eastern Channel.

Martin Edmunds, prosecuting for DEFRA, said that in each case, the logbooks had been incorrectly filled in and satellite tracking devices turned off.

Each of the skippers had caught in excess of their sole quota before selling them for a profit, he said.

David Thomas, who represented the defendants, said they had been forced to flout the regulations in order to survive in business.