A Falkland Islands Summary Court acting Justice of Peace Andrew Brownlee and Leeann Harris handed out a conditional discharge for eighteen months to Spanish fishing captain, Oscar Gomez, while fining his company, Pesquerias Marinenses SA, a total of £5,000, plus court costs of £150. Mr Gomez was also ordered to pay £150 costs.
Both parties had pleaded guilty to two charges: one of failing to make a fish end report to the Directory of Fisheries and the other of failing to give seventy-two hours notice of their intention to leave the Falkland Islands Fishing Zone.
Observations made by the Fisheries Department using their own vessel tracking system had twice indicated that the trawler Playa de Galicia was outside the zone by distances of 283 and 318 metres respectively.
Further calculations by the British Hydrographic Office had indicated that the vessel was proceeding at a speed of 3 knots, indicating that it was fishing at the time.
Mr Neves, defence counsel for the fishing company, said that the distances quoted were not great and that due to a possible error in its calibration, the sealed positioning unit on the vessel had not indicated a departure from the Falkland Islands Fishing Zone and therefore it had not been felt necessary to make the required reports.
Remarking that on the open sea there are no boundary fences, Mr Neves told the court that nevertheless the Company and the ship’s captain accepted the Fisheries Department’s ruling and pleaded guilty.
When ordered to return to Stanley, the vessel had done so immediately and the Captain had freely given whatever assistance that the Fisheries Department required in terms of documentation. The vessel’s log book also supported the Captain’s belief that his vessel had not left the zone.
In passing sentence, Mr Brownlee said that he and his colleague took into account the early plea of guilt, the Captain’s good character and a report by a government observer who described the Playa Galicia in very positive terms.
The bench therefore accepted the defence assertion that what had occurred was a “simple mistake” without any intentionality. (PN)