Fisherman: I was treated as a criminal
A Cornish fishing skipper said he was treated like a criminal when his boat was boarded by the French Navy, who impounded it and destroyed his valuable catch – despite operating legally.
Mark Powell was forced to hand over a 10,000 Euro bond to secure the release of his boat, the Golden Fleece, as well as pay a fine and be forced to stand by while his haul worth £2,000 destroyed.
The 44-year-old, from Penryn, said what added insult to injury was the fact that the Government's fishing watchdog, the Marine Management Organisation, failed to intervene.
"It's a real slap in the face," said Mr Powell, who followed in the footsteps of his father, Clinton, to become a fisherman. "I did everything by the book. I wasn't fishing in French waters and yet my boat was boarded and I was treated like a criminal and marched to the Gendarmes.
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"I had to pay a 10,000 Euro bond to get my boat freed and I don't know whether I'll see any of that money again.
"I also had to pay 829 euros to have my catch disposed of.
"There was £2,000 worth of catch I lost, as well as fuel, and there was a cost of my boat being out of action for a week. The MMO have done nothing. They are not interested in small family fishing businesses likes ours."
Mr Powell's run-in with the French authorities began last month when he was fishing for scallops in international waters off Normandy. His boat was boarded by a sailors from a French Navy ship, who insisted that an agreement for larger vessels not to fish in the area should be applied to the Golden Fleece, which is under-15 metres.
Despite his protests, the fishing boat's storage room was sealed and he was forced to return to the nearest English port, where an MMO officer confirmed that he was acting within the law.
On October 1, Mr Powell and his three-man crew returned to Baie de Seine off the French coast and resumed their fishing. After 12 hours within plain sight of a different French Navy ship, the Cornish skipper found himself again under scrutiny. "They boarded us and said we were not allowed to fish in the area but I confirmed before I left that we were because the Golden Fleece is under 15 metres."
Mr Powell said he was then accused of not having a working electronic log and ordered into the port of Le Havre. He said devices issued by the MMO to the under 15-metre fleet had failed and ships like his had written permission to keep a paper log.
Paul Trebilcock, chief executive of the Cornish Fish Producers Organisation (CFPO), called for the MMO to stand up for fishermen. "The financial losses and massive stress put on Mark's young family is little short of criminal."
An spokesperson for the MMO said: "We are in contact with Mr Powell about his case, it would however be inappropriate for us to comment on ongoing proceedings."