The Master of a Spanish fishing vessel, the ‘Nuevo Murgados ‘ was fined and had his catch and gear confiscated by the State in a case brought before Cork Circuit Court on Tuesday 15th June 2010. Fines of €20,000 in total were imposed and forfeiture for the catch and gear amounted to €41,000. The Judge also imposed an award of €5,000 towards costs of the case. The case was the subject of a trial brought before Cork Circuit Court between the 29th of April to the 5th May 2010 whereby the defence sought to challenge the use of the new Omega Gauge in the measurement of nets.
The ‘Nuevo Murgados’ was boarded by the Naval Service off the West Coast of Ireland on the 28th September 2009, and was subsequently inspected by Sea-Fisheries Protection Officers (SFPOs). During the inspection, two nets were measured by the SFPOs using the Omega Gauge; the results were that nets were found to be 93.8mm and 77mm respectively which contravened EU regulation. The Master was charged with two offences including; logbook infringements -operating a net of less than 100mm whereas 100mm was recorded in the EU Logbook and retaining in excess of 20% Hake while operating a net between 55mm and 99mm.
On the 1st September 2009 the Omega Gauge was introduced as the definitive means for the measurement of the mesh size of fishing vessels operating in community waters. The Omega Gauge applies a predetermined force and calculates the average for a series of measurements ensuring consistency in measurement, whereas the preceding gauge required the inspector to apply a manual force.
Peter Whelan, Chairman of the SFPA said: “The defence in this case challenged the Omega Gauge, and in this context securing a conviction was significant. The use of the Omega Gauge has been the subject of some criticism however the outcome of this case proves the viability of the system. The Omega Gauge will provide a consistent reliable measurement for fishermen and should provide assurance for legitimate operators that the same result will be produced whenever their gear is measured. The Omega Gauge improves the methodology for mesh size measurement which will contribute to better implementation of technical conservation measures and the effectiveness of fishery management overall.”