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UK fishing boat skipper fined £1,000 for ‘honest mistake’

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A UK fishing boat skipper was fined £1,000 for an honest mistake after he was caught fishing in Bailiwick waters.

Georgia Dawn moored at the Fisherman's Quay in St Peter Port Harbour. (Picture supplied by Tony Rive)

Stephen Clasper, 54, who gave an address in Benalmadena Costa, Malaga, admitted the offence when he appeared in the Magistrate’s Court yesterday afternoon.

The court heard how Clasper was the master of the Inverness-registered Georgia Dawn, which came to the attention of Guernsey’s Sea Fisheries authorities at about 5.30am yesterday morning when it was detected on the wrong side of the island’s territorial limit to the west.

Sea Fisheries protection vessel the Leopardess was launched, and on reaching the fishing boat it could see fishing wires coming from it, with the boat recovering its scallop dredgers.

Officers boarded and it was established that the boat was 0.87 nautical miles inside the limit.

The boat was escorted back to St Peter Port Harbour and Clasper appeared in court in the afternoon.

Defence Advocate David Thompson said Clasper had not had any intention of fishing in local waters, and had been relying on two navigation plotters that had, it turned out, been giving him the wrong position.

There was a third device on board, but one of its display screens was not working and Clasper was unable to see the other screen from his position at the helm of the boat.

He had been a fisherman for 40 years and working on the Georgia Dawn for the last seven. This was only the third time he had been acting as skipper.

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The boat had never been near these waters before. It was one of four boats owned by a family company based in the north-east.

When it was stopped, the boat had been fishing since about 3.15pm the previous afternoon and had gathered some two tonnes of scallops, valued at about £3,500.

Judge Gary Perry said that while he accepted that Clasper had made a mistake, he should have been aware that he was close to Bailiwick waters and taken more care since it was more likely that the boat was going to drift.

But in the circumstances, and having given Clasper full credit for his guilty plea and after hearing what his defence had to say, he was not going to impose a severe fine.

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