Two fishing boat owners and a skipper were fined a total of £29,000 on Monday for scallop dredging in the special area of conservation (SAC) in Cardigan Bay.

Simon John Peter Coll, aged 44, of Castlemorris and David Mark Griffiths, aged 46, of Waterston Road, Milford Haven, owners of the Ocean Vanguard, admitted two charges of scallop dredging in the prohibited area of Cardigan Bay.

Skipper 38 year-old Lee Wonacott of Richard John Road, Milford Haven, also pleaded guilty to the charges.

James Subbiani, prosecuting on behalf of the Welsh Government, told the court that on March 5th officers on the fisheries patrol vessel, Cranogwen, found the Ocean Vanguard inside the SAC. They ordered it to haul up its gear and its dredges were full of scallops.

From January 18th until March 5th the Ocean Vanguard had hauled 22,861 kilos of scallops, sold for a total of £37,291 the court was told.

The plotting system showed it had been in the SAC, displaying behaviour consistent with scallop dredging, 56% of the time.

"This is a serious offence which showed flagrant disregard for the legislation," said Mr Subbiani.

Gareth Lewis, defending, said that the venture into scalloping had been an 'absolute disaster' due to a catalogue of problems with the vessel. He said the problems explained why the Ocean Vanguard was in the SAC on March 5th. He told the court the vessel's gear had become tangled and drifted into the SAC as the skipper tried to untangle it.

"There has been no intentional flouting of the law but it is a consequence of the problems with the vessel," he said.

Magistrates fined Wonacott £7,000; Griffiths £10,000 and Coll £12,000. All three men were each ordered to pay £1,646 costs and a £15 victim surcharge.