Overfishing set to continue

EU ministers have ignored advice and set unsustainable fish quotas for several stocks in 2020, missing a deadline to end overfishing.

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.”

Sustainable fish
Fishing quotas are set by an EU fisheries council decision. 

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.”


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  1. And this situation will continue until such time as the EU runs out of fish as has happened in a lot of the Mediterranean some years back. As long as cheap fish can be obtained by raiding British waters both legally and illegally it is easier to rob those areas where fish are known to breed well other than look elsewhere, or worse use sensible quotas. For many years the EU has regularly reduced British quotas whilst ignoring other EU states. Additionally other states are allowed to buy part of the British quota, doesn’t matter then who catches it, so no matter what British Fishermen try the fish will still be taken.

    It is essential that as soon as Britain is no longer part of the EU the quota system is changed such that NO FISHING IS ALLOWED during certain periods, these periods should be severly monitored and ANY VESSEL found fishing on those days other than sustainable fishing for their own use (One fish per person in the crew) then all fishing gear should be forfeited and destroyed. Also the vessel concerned should be warned that if found fishing again (no matter the ownership) the vessel concerned shall be arrested, taken to “wreckers”, beached and destroyed immediately – there should be no appeal allowed.

    Additionally the use of fishing nets (with some few exceptions) needs to be investigated with a view of a ban on their use on the continental shelf. Even suggesting that apporach will bring screams of fear and wrath and then and only then will the power that be sit down and consider adequated conservation ( alot of fishermen are already trying to do this – they know what the loss of fish actually means both for the oceans of the world and those living close by


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