11 April 2016
The European Union should only permit fishing vessels to operate in the Arctic if they meet the same requirements as those operating inside EU waters.
The opinion is contained in a legal briefing, published today by environmental lawyers ClientEarth. We have also written a legal analysis of this issue.
Currently, EU vessels can fish in international waters or in the waters of another country without respecting the environmental rules that govern fishing inside EU waters under the Common Fisheries Policy.
To deal with outdated laws and loopholes, the European Commission released a proposal last December for a new regulation on the sustainable management of external fishing fleets.
The 2013 Common Fisheries Policy includes a legal requirement to limit fishing to sustainable levels by 2020 but the new proposal fails to incorporate this key requirement.
Whilst the proposal is generally a large improvement over the current regulation, it does not explicitly say that fishing vessels should respect the sustainability requirements of the CFP before being authorised to fish outside EU waters.
Elisabeth Druel, fisheries expert for environmental lawyers ClientEarth, says: "If the new regulation is to help protect fragile ecosystems such as the Barents Sea from unsustainable and unregulated fishing, the regulation needs to ensure that the EU only authorises vessels which meet the same environmental sustainability standards that protect EU waters from over-exploitation."
ClientEarth believes that loopholes and inconsistencies in the EU approach need to be addressed if rare and fragile ecosystems, such as those around the Arctic, are to be protected.
Our legal briefing shows how that the current proposal should be strengthened and brought in line with existing EU law.
In the coming months, we will closely monitor the discussions on this topic and advocate that the EU works to ensure that its vessels do not engage in destructive and unsustainable fishing practices outside EU waters.