A NORTHUMBERLAND fisherman has been forced to quit a conservation authority after allegedly breaching its rules on lobster catches.
William Miller, from Blyth, was made to resign from the Northumberland Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority after supposedly contravening its bylaws on the protection of lobsters.
His departure follows the sacking from the body of its vice chairman in 2011 following similar breaches.
Mr Miller, known as Billy, was a Marine Management Organisation (MMO) appointment to the authority when it was formed in place of the Northumberland Sea Fisheries Committee in April 2011.
The 60-year-old has been a fisherman for 40 years.
Last August he was caught by the authority’s officers, who were on patrol, supposedly in possession of one lobster which was of a size which meant it should have been returned to the water under the organisation’s rules.
He also allegedly had two which had been “V notched” – a marking to let fisherman know a specimen must similarly be returned in the interests of stock preservation.
Mr Miller, who had no “previous convictions” for such matters, is said to have had “a different take to the officers” on what had happened and was given a warning by the authority.
Shortly before Christmas, Mr Miller was asked to resign from the body with his position felt to be “untenable.” He agreed to do so.
Authority chief executive Mike Hardy last night said: “For anybody found with V notched or undersized lobsters they would be given a warning if they have no previous convictions but of course if you are a member of the authority, the highest standards of public office have to be maintained and thus his resignation was felt to be appropriate.”
Mr Miller last night denied any wrongdoing, disputing the suggestion he had landed an undersized lobster and claiming the creature had been measured in front of independent witnesses.
He said the marking on one of the V notched specimens had “grown out” and that it was under 5mm, allowing it to be caught, while he believed the other lobster could have been “naturally” disfigured. Mr Miller said he had received no verbal warning and claimed he had stood down because he was not satisfied at the way the matter had been handled, not because he had been asked to.
“I resigned personally because I was not happy.
“I could have taken it further, I could have taken it to the MMO.
“I am not going to stand in front of a kangaroo court.” In August 2011, the authority’s vice chairman John Thomson was sacked from his post after being caught with a V notched lobster. Retired fisherman Mr Thomson, then 71, from Boulmer, near Alnwick, had been a member of the authority and its predecessor for 25 years, 11 as chairman of the committee.