Wed | Apr 24, 2019

Big catch! Poachers lose boats, equipment and fish

Published:Saturday | March 23, 2019 | 12:24 AMChristopher Serju/Gleaner Writer

The decision by Senior Corporate Area Judge Vaughn Smith to support the application by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for forfeiture of the two industrial fishing boats from the Dominican Republic is being hailed for its landmark significance. The vessels which were fishing illegally in Jamaica’s territorial waters on Saturday, March 2, were intercepted with equipment and 557,000 pounds of combined seafood aboard.

Presiding over a sitting of the court convened at the Marine Police facilities, Smith ordered that the boats, equipment and the catch be forfeited to the state, after the poachers pleaded guilty to all charges. The captains of both vessels had pleaded guilty during the first sitting on March 15, when they were fined $40,000 each, while 54 other fishermen were yesterday each fined $30,000 or three months in prison.

COURT LENIENCY

The lone Jamaican in the crew was however spared prison, under a plea-bargaining agreement, according to deputy director of public prosecutions, Adley Duncan, who marshalled evidence on behalf of the prosecution.

“He is young and the prosecution exercised a discretion not to proceed against him. The others go back to their home but he would have had a criminal record here for illegal fishing. His lawyer asked and we decided, in light of the forfeiture of the catch and vessels, that there was no need to punish this young man,” he explained.

Duncan went on to explain that it was consultation with other legal experts which informed the strategy which resulted in the successful prosecution. This was after the preliminary hearing on March 15, when the poachers were charged under the Fisheries Act, Aquaculture Act and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) Act.

However, when the case was called up yesterday, the prosecution withdrew all charges under the Fisheries and Aquaculture acts and proceeded to make its case solely under Section 6, the EEZ statute.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com