The EU’s Common Fisheries Policy commitment to ending overfishing by 2020 at the latest came and went without any repercussions for Member States, which continue to set fishing quotas above sustainable limits annually. Thanks to a case taken by Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) and ClientEarth, this may change.
A High Court ruling this week (8 February 2022) will see the Court of Justice of the European Union being called on to rule whether EU fisheries ministers have illegally set unsustainable fishing limits. Following the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy’s earlier commitment to ending overfishing by 2020, the high court action is challenging inaction on the missed deadline, and the EU’s legal commitment to have ended overfishing by 2020.
Green Party MEP Grace O’Sullivan, who is Green Party Spokesperson on the Marine and a member of the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee, welcomed the ruling: “Time after time, Member States, including Ireland, have exceeded the scientific advice provided for sustainable fishing levels.
“In the North Atlantic alone, around 46% of Northeast Atlantic total allowable catches (TACs) could be considered ‘unsustainable’ in 2020. This goes against the EU’s own legal commitment to end overfishing and is extremely damaging to our marine environment, not to mention the fishing communities that depend on healthy stocks.”
With the support of legal NGO ClientEarth, FIE launched a legal action before the High Court, questioning the validity of the regulation that set the total allowable catches for 2020. It is, says the Ireland South MEP, ‘significant,’ that this first challenge came from Ireland, as the European Commission recently expressed concern that “Ireland continues to be the most expensive member state in which to make an environmental claim before the courts.”
She added “The European Union has set many ambitious goals recently, in light of the European Green Deal and the Environment Action Programme to 2030. But if we do not act on the science, then our efforts to end the climate and biodiversity crises will be pointless.”