Scallop wars: British owners of fishing boat caught up in Channel skirmish previously fined for landing under-sized shellfish

The owners of a fishing boat at the centre of a clash with French vessels in a battle over scallops, have previously been fined thousands of pounds for catching under-sized shellfish, government records reveal.

Macduff Shellfish (Scotland) Ltd currently owns the Honeybourne III, hull number PD905. It took the craft over in 2016 from Macduff Fishing Fleet Ltd. 

Both firms have been prosecuted and fined for breaching fishing regulations in recent years, according to government documents.

Footage surfaced earlier this week that appeared to show the Honeybourne III in a skirmish with French fishing vessels, amid a long-running dispute over scallop fishing off the Normandy coast.

The boat seemed to collide with a smaller craft as the dispute boiled over. Jim Portus, of the South West Fish Producers Organisation, told The Sun the Honeybourne III’s skipper had been “forced to carry out defensive action in the face of determined French aggression”.

France restricts the fishing season between 1 October and 15 May and catches are only permitted beyond a 12 mile exclusion zone off the coast. The rules are designed to maximise breeding. British boats can harvest scallops at any time of the year, but generally agree not to fish when their French counterparts are unable to do so. Larger boats have also stayed out the area in exchange for more fishing rights.   

​Dimitri Rogoff, head of a Normandy fishermen’s association, said the violent scenes demonstrated ”the exasperation of Normandy fishermen in a situation which persists and does not change”.

In December 2016 the Honeybourne III’s master, a Mr Poland, and Macduff Fishing Fleet Ltd admitted breaching fishing regulations after under-sized shellfish were uncovered by a search in Shoreham, West Sussex.

At Worthing Magistrates’ Court the company was fined £16,409 and ordered to pay £3,567 in legal costs after some 2.65 metric tonnes of scallops in the boat’s hold were found to be under the prescribed size of 110mm, put in place to conserve stocks. The boat’s master was fined £1,400 and ordered to pay £150 in costs.

At the time the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), which brought the prosecution, said: “The impact on the stocks is potentially considerable. By taking this enforcement action the MMO has acted to help ensure that this vessel was not able to profit from retaining and landing undersized fish.”

In November 2017, Macduff Shellfish and the Honeybourne III’s then-master, David Marr, pleaded guilty at Worthing Magistrates’ Court to catching scallops that were too small.

Marr was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay £375.50 costs, while the company was made to pay a £23,264 fine plus £4,000 costs for the “serious” offence.

The government did not specify where the under-sized shellfish were caught.

Macduff Shellfish referred The Independent to Mr Portus for comment. Mr Portus did not immediately respond to a voicemail message.

Macduff Shellfish is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Canadian company Clearwater Seafoods, which acquired it in a £98.4m deal in 2015, according to its website.

In 2016 Euan Beaton, the company’s president, said that “sustainability has been a key focus of Macduff’s for some time, as we protect our fishing heritage for future generations”.

This month the firm announced it would partner with the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers to host a scallop management conference in the UK in February 2019.

“The purpose of the conference is to bring together fisheries champions from around the world to present case studies on sustainable models of fisheries management and best practices that may be applied to the future management of UK scallop fisheries,” the company said. 

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