Government to continue safeguarding fishing within Maltese waters

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Government to continue safeguarding fishing within Maltese watersWith regards to a court judgement of foreign fishermen caught within Maltese fishing waters, the Parliamentary Secretariat for Agriculture, Fisheries and Animal Rights, has clarified that the doctrine of precedent "does not apply within the Maltese legal order, and judgements given apply among the parties for their particular case."

"The Government remains committed to safeguard the 25 nautical miles. In fact since 2013, seven other vessels involved in illegal activities by fishing vessels within the Maltese fishing waters have been prosecuted. These included 5 non-Malta registered Community vessels, and 2 third country vessels," the statement by the Secretariat said.

All cases have been decided in favour of Malta with the exception of one due to a lack of evidence required in criminal proceedings, however following the transmission of the relevant information by the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture to the relevant state authorities, the latter applied administrative fines and also attributed penalty points to the relevant licence.

The Court case referred to by the Opposition was instituted in 2008, when evidence was submitted before the Magistrate followed by written submissions from both sides. The case had been deferred for judgement since 2009, after which a sentence was delivered on 17 October 2015.

It said that, "the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture was not informed that a sitting was scheduled for the delivery of judgement nor was it informed that a judgement had been given. Appeals from such judgement require the exercise of discretion by the Prosecuting Police Officer through the provision of a demand in writing to the Court so that the acts of the proceeding be sent of the Attorney General in accordance with the Criminal Code."

The "special fishing permit" being quoted in this case refers to the allocation of a quota to the French fishing vessel to target Blue-fin tuna by the French Authorities. "The waters under Malta's jurisdiction are subject to an EU fishing effort regime whereby the capacity operating within the 25nm management zone is capped under EU law. In order for a vessel to operate within this zone it needs to be in possession of a "special fishing permit" specifically authorising that vessel to fish in the said waters."

The Secretariat said that the French vessel "did not possess this permit and should therefore not have been fishing in the waters covered by the 25nm management zone."

"When in possession of adequate evidence, the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture will continue submitting such evidence and information to the Executive Police while requesting that proceedings be initiated in line with its current policy."

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