EU ministers have missed a legal deadline to end overfishing by ignoring scientific advice and setting unsustainable fish quotas.
Lawyers from environmental NGO ClientEarth have warned that the decision, taken at a council meeting of fisheries ministries this week, breaches EU law and could result in legal action.
The meeting resulted in setting unsustainable Total Allowable Catches (TACs) for several stocks in the Northeast Atlantic, ClientEarth said, including several vulnerable stocks, like Irish Sea whiting and cod in the west of Scotland and in the Celtic Sea.
ClientEarth fisheries lawyer Nick Goetschalckx said: “It was the collective responsibility of EU fisheries ministers to make sure that this year’s fishing quotas are fully in line with the legal deadline to end overfishing by 2020, but they failed to deliver.
“This is not just a political failure. The deadline is a legal obligation and Courts exist to enforce it. In this regard, we think the European Parliament is in a privileged position to ensure that the Common Fisheries Policy’s requirement to end overfishing is upheld.”
The news comes as a recent ClientEarth report found that, over the last five years, countries like Ireland, France and Spain have repeatedly pushed for unsustainable fishing limits, while others, including Germany and the Netherlands, have failed to stop them.
Due to the lack of transparency around the process, as recently confirmed by the European Ombudsman, it has been notoriously difficult to hold anyone to account for these decisions.
Goetschalckx added: “Six years ago, the European Parliament, the Commission and the Council followed the call of European citizens to put sustainability at the heart of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy, by vowing to end overfishing by 2020.
“At the December Council meeting, EU fisheries ministers broke not just their promises, but the law. This failure should not be without legal consequences.”