Falkland Islands Meat Company (FIMCo) Managing Director John Ferguson was fined £1,000 after pleading guilty in the Magistrate’s Court to a charge of depositing animal waste into the sea, without a licence.
FIMCo itself was also charged with the same offence, and the company pleaded guilty to the offence. It was fined £1,600. Both were ordered to pay £150 in court costs.
Mr Ferguson tendered his resignation from the company on Wednesday afternoon.
Falkland Islands Development Corporation Managing Director and Acting Chair of the FIMCo Board Martin Slater said, “John has made a very significant contribution to the Falkland Islands meat industry and we are very sorry to see him go.”
Mr Ferguson was promoted to the position of General Manager in 2006 and has managed the Sand Bay Plant since that time.
Crown Prosecutor Stuart Walker told the court on Tuesday that FIMCo had first obtained a five-year licence to dump waste products from the abattoir in 2005, when it became clear that the incinerator there could not always cope with the throughput. Animal waste, mostly bones, was taken by lorry to a chute at Port Harriet and tipped into the sea.
In 2010, the licence from Environmental Planning was renewed for a further two years, and again in 2012.However, on December 11, 2014, Mr Ferguson realised the licence had expired at
the end of August, and he wrote to Environmental Planning Officer, Nick Rendell, saying, “Hi Nick, I’ve just realised the two-year licence has expired. These two-year licences are a royal pain.”
Mr Walker concluded by stating that there were special factors involved in the case. The Falkland Islands relies on the environment for fishing and tourism industries. Any risk to the environment needs to be taken seriously. Also, there are insufficient people in the Falklands to monitor all activities, and self-regulation is often the norm. So, when illegality occurs, the sentence should deter others from following suit.
Defence lawyer Alison Inglis, said that the Sand Bay abattoir had made significant contributions to the Falkland Islands economy over the years. Payments had been made to farmers for their livestock, and to hauliers for transport. About 20 people are employed all year round, and this rises to 60 in the busy export season.
Ms Inglis contended that although the waste had been dumped without a licence, the amount had been small, and there was no evidence of any damage done.
When Mr Ferguson noticed the licence had expired, he had immediately informed Environmental Planning, and had worked with them to renew the licence a few months later. No extra conditions had been added to the new licence. It had simply been an administrative oversight.
She also pointed out that FIMCo operated with the help of a subvention from FIG, so if a fine is imposed, it may affect public finances.
Senior Magistrate Clare Faulds said that some people may be puzzled why this prosecution had been brought. But she agreed with the prosecution argument that there was a need to promote regulation in any industry, whether fishing or wool or the meat industry.
It was in the country’s interest to regulate the environment and businesses, and to deter others from acting in a detrimental way, she said.
Mrs Faulds agreed that both defendants had unblemished records and had been involved in regulating the industry for many years and it had been a short-term administrative failure. No damage had been done to the environment. It was not like an oil or chemical spill, she said.
She noted Mr Ferguson’s cooperation with the authorities, but said he had to take responsibility for this failure, The company, also had to take responsibility to ensure its employees performed their jobs correctly said Mrs Faulds who concluded by saying she hoped that her deterring comments would be observed.