ClientEarth lawyers have begun legal action over the unsustainable fishing limits that were agreed between the EU and the UK for 2022.
During their second round of post-Brexit negotiations, the parties gave fishers permission to make catches of fish stocks that have ‘zero-catch’ advice from scientists to try to bring them back from extinction. They set catch limits for many other stocks far higher than scientists recommended.
ClientEarth lawyers have filed an internal review request asking the Council to review its decision.
If the Council refuses to amend it, lawyers will ask the Court of Justice of the EU to rule.
ClientEarth fisheries lawyer Arthur Meeus said:
“We are challenging the fishing limits for the stocks shared between the EU and UK as they ignore the science and allow major overfishing – in breach of the law. This agreement is not only undermining the fragile health of our marine ecosystems, it is also eroding the capacity of the ocean to absorb carbon and mitigate climate change.
“Both the EU and the UK seem to have given up the vital and politically advisable objective of ending overfishing – this puts at risk the future of fishing activities, especially small-scale fisheries, and the survival of coastal communities.”
A recent report from the UK government’s marine and freshwater science experts concluded that for 2022, only 35% of the fishing limits adopted by the UK when negotiating with other parties – including the EU, Norway and the Faroe Islands – were consistent with official scientific advice.
“We hope this challenge will push both sides to put an end to short-sighted commercial interests over the medium to long-term survival of fish and fishers. We’re borrowing from tomorrow’s fishers when we need to be setting them up for the future.”
Around 70 stocks – the majority of the stocks that used to be managed by the EU alone before Brexit – are now shared with the UK.
This internal review request follows a first request challenging EU-only stocks.
ClientEarth is also currently waiting for a ruling on a separate case, brought with Friends of the Irish Environment, on the validity of the EU’s 2020 fishing limits. The CJEU is set to rule on whether the EU’s decision was unlawful.