Ramon Novo Martinez, Skipper of the German registered gillnetter Ortega Tres, was brought before Bandon District Court today following the detention of his vessel by the LE Samuel Beckett
Mr Martinez, was charged with a total of 25 fishing offences on various dates between a date unknown in December 2022 and February 3rd 2023 while fishing within the exclusive fishing limits of the Irish State.
He was charged with four logbook offences of failing to record the proper depth at which his vessel was fishing and four offences of failing to record the proper net soak times while fishing within Irish exclusive fishing limits.
He was also charged with a total of 17 separate offences of allowing his nets to exceed the permitted soak times of 72 hours allowed for the gear while fishing within the exclusive fishing limits of the State.
Garda Geraldine O’Sullivan of Castletownbere Garda Station gave evidence of arrest, charge and caution and told how she had arrested Mr Martinez at Deenish Pier, Castletownbere on February 13th and he made no reply to any of the 25 charges when they were put to him after caution.
Acting State Solicitor for West Cork, Jerry Healy, said that Garda O’Sullivan had served a book of evidence in the case on Mr Martinez outside court and that the DPP had directed trial by indictment. and he was seeking a return to the current sittings of Cork Circuit Criminal Court on February 17th.
Mr Healy said the State had no objection to Mr Martinez being released on bail pending his trial, but he said that he was making two separate applications seeking to extend the detention of his vessel, Ortega Tres at Castletownbere where she was moored since escorted there by the Naval Service.
Mr Healy first applied to have the Ortega Tres detained indefinitely at Castletownbere and he then applied to have it detained until a bond for €310,00 to cover the cost of the catch, gear, potential fines and legal costs, was lodged with the court by boat’s owners.
Mr Healy said this figure for the bond had been reached after the Sea Fisheries Protection Agency (SFPA) valued the catch at €122,000 and the gear at almost €29,000 while the balance of the bond was to cover €5,000 legal costs and potential fines if the accused was convicted of the offences.
Defence solicitor, Dermot Conway said that his client and the Spanish owners of the trawler strongly disputed the value of the catch, saying they estimated it to be worth €40,000.
He said Mr Martinez, with an address at Corospalmeira, Riberia, La Coruna, Spain, would be arguing that a significant factor common to all the charges was that the winch aboard his vessel was broken and he could not haul his nets.
“These are big nets, you cannot haul them out manually, you need your winch,” he said.
Mr Conway asked Judge James McNulty to moderate the value of the bond, saying a bond of €310,000 was more than the value of Mr Martinez’s vessel and if his client couldn’t meet the bond, he would surrender the catch to the SFPA who would then have to sell the catch or dispose of it.
Judge McNulty said that he would reduce the bond for the vessel to €100,000 which would allow the vessel return to sea with its catch but he would set a cash bond of €5,000 for Mr Martinez to be lodged with Clonakilty District Court Office to give him an incentive to turn up for his trial.
He granted an application by Mr Conway to allow Mr Martinez stay on board the Ortegal Tres until such time as his cash bond was lodged, given the boat would be detained until the €100,000 security for it was lodged at which stage, they could both depart Castletownbere.