Committee president Neil Inder opened the debate by explaining that this problem had grown in scale and Sea Fisheries knew of boats which had a commercial level of equipment on board and were clearly selling fish without a licence.
The problem was linking fish being sold to these boats, and so the law would make it illegal for anyone to buy fish caught by an unlicensed boat, and this would be easier to police.
In an effort to explain why this would not affect hobbyist fishermen looking to sell a few excess fish or shellfish, he said that while the island’s maximum speed limit was 35mph in some places, the police would not be likely to bother someone driving at 36mph, or 37, 28 or 39.
Similarly, the sea fisheries officers were interested only in commercial quantities of fish being sold illegally.
Owners of the boats allegedly involved in illegal sales had been approached by officers, he said, and their response had been along the lines of ‘catch us if you can’.
Peter Roffey said he had problems with the proportionality of the legal changes and he placed an amendment, seconded by Deputy Gavin St Pier, to ask Economic Development to consider granting exemptions for low levels of sales and purchases: ‘There must be a way for saying that Mrs Le Page [can buy] a few spider crabs from somebody who has too many.’
Under the law, such people would be deemed criminals and he believed that the majority of Guernsey people were law-abiding and it seemed out of proportion to criminalise them for buying a few fish.
Deputy Roffey was reluctant to criminalise something that he did not consider to be morally wrong.
He stressed that the amendment was asking the committee ‘to consider’ this option and did not bind them to do so.
Debate continues this morning.