Skipper fined £22,500 for having secret hold


THE skipper of a British-registered Spanish trawler was fined £22,500 yesterday in Galway Circuit Court and had his gear and catch forfeited. He had pleaded guilty to having a secret hold in his vessel when boarded in Irish waters.

Mr Joakim Urkiza whose vessel the Juan Mari from the Basque port of Ondarroa - was detained off the Kerry coast by the naval fishery protection vessel the LE Aisling, pleaded guilty to two charges under Irish fishery legislation.

He was charged that on November 26th within the fishing limits of the State he failed to keep on board documents containing an up-to-date drawing or description of its fish rooms, including an indication of storage capacity as required, contrary to Section 223 of the Fisheries (Amendment) Act. He was also charged with failing to communicate entry into the exclusive State fishing limits.

The court was told she boarding officer of the LE Aisling, Lieut Eoin McGinn, had discovered the secret hold when the Falmouth-registered vessel was boarded. While some documents were in order, Lieut McGinn sought to verify the fish room capacity. The hold conformed with the log book but he became suspicious of an area supposed to contain fuel tanks.

The concealed hold, measuring 7.6 metres by 1.3 metres by 2.1 metres was discovered. It contained 80 fish boxes, net and four refrigeration units similar to those in the fish room. There was also a thermometer connected to the power system.

By pleading guilty, the defendant had saved the State considerable expense, Mr James Mahoney, defending, said. His client genuinely believed that he had properly communicated his vessel's entry into Irish waters.

In relation to the concealed compartment, it was not used at that time for the storage of fish, while there was no evidence of fish there, he added. It had been used for the storage of fish boxes and all fish on board had been properly recorded.

Judge Diarmuid Sheridan said that having a concealed compartment was a serious matter. He commended the naval officer for his diligence in making the discovery. In addition to a £22,500 fine, he ordered the forfeiture of the vessel's catch and gear worth a total of £14,500, and ruled that the skipper pay £1,500 costs incurred by the State.