The Master of a French registered fishing vessel has pleaded guilty at Cork Circuit Criminal Court to sea-fisheries offences of failing to comply with the legal requirements on the use of Acoustic Deterrent Devices on fishing gear, detected on the 21st of June 2023, in the Irish exclusive fishery limits.
The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) detained the fishing vessel on 21st June 2023, in the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) for alleged non-compliance with European sea-fisheries legislation. An inspection was conducted from the European Fisheries Control Agency’s (EFCA’s) Offshore Patrol Vessel on Tuesday 20th June 2023 which followed a risk-based approach that focused on gear and fishing area, not by the registered flag of the vessel.
The vessel was found to be fishing using gillnets and it is alleged that the vessel was not using any acoustic deterrent devices (ADDs) on over 15,000 metres of fishing gear. Gillnets are made of monofilament nylon mesh that is invisible underwater and therefore acts as a hazard to cetaceans and other marine mammals. By utilising ADDs or “pingers” to emit a certain frequency at regular intervals, pingers warn cetaceans such as dolphins of the presence of the obstacle and enable them to avoid the nets and deter them from swimming into nets, becoming entangled and drowning. Cetaceans are part of the prohibited species list and catching and landing this species represent a threat to the conservation status of the species which includes all species of dolphins, porpoises, and whales. The SFPA has been using enhanced technologies both at sea and ashore to verify compliance with the requirements for such gear to have ADDs.
The Master of the detained vessel was brought before Bandon District Court on the evening of the 21st June 2023. The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) directed that the charges be dealt with in the Circuit Criminal Court on indictment. The Master pleaded guilty to four alleged breaches of failing to have the requisite acoustic deterrent devices (ADDs) on two sets of bottom-set gillnets. This is in contravention of EU legislation on the signal and implementation characteristics of ADDs.
Infringement of the legislation is an offence under the Sea- Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act 2006. The Master was sent forward on bail to the Circuit Criminal Court. The Master confirmed his guilty pleas in the Circuit Criminal Court in Cork yesterday morning (the 22nd June 2023). The Court set a bond of €107, 000, which, if lodged, will allow the release of the vessel. The case has been adjourned to Cork Circuit Criminal Court for sentencing on the 24th October 2023. The vessel and catch remain detained at Castletownbere port.