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Posted by Richard Friday, March 18, 2005

In another story of the shambles that passes for fisheries enforcement, this week’s Fishing News tells the tale of a Brixham beam trawler which was arrested last Friday in the Western Approaches, seven miles within the French median line, for allegedly having one of its net meshes 2 mm undersize.

Skipper Geoff Cudd and his crew were on the last but one day of a "a very good trip" and were due to land at Newlyn on the Sunday. However, they were boarded by French fisheries officers who checked his nets for mesh size with a regulatory measure. One was measured at 80 mm and then another was checked, which was also at 80 mm – the minimum legal size.

However, after measuring the second net, the officers decided to measure it again and this time claimed it was 78 mm. They threw the first piece of paper recording 80 mm over the side, says skipper, Cudd and wrote 78 mm on another piece of paper.

The trawler, Lady Maureen, was then ordered to steam 160 miles in to St Malo. Says Cudd, the French officers were "vindictive" and "just wanted a weekend in port."

But what is particularly chilling about the tale – as if this was not bad enough – was the experience with the British authorities.

Co-owner Dave Langdon contacted Defra's acting chief fisheries inspector, who was "polite but not helpful". "What are we coming to when the British government will not help his own citizens?", he asks.

Quite.