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ClientEarth Communications

23 May 2022

Fisheries & Seafood
Protecting species
Defending habitats

We’re taking action to end overfishing

Overfishing, or unsustainable fishing, is where fish stocks are being fished faster than they can breed and recover, damaging populations beyond measure. 

Fish are a vital part of a healthy marine ecosystem and as species decline, it will have an impact on countless other species as well as and the ocean’s ability to absorb carbon.

In the North-East Atlantic, a huge 40% of fish stocks are in a bad shape.

In the EU, the Common Fisheries Policy aims to protect fish stocks and the marine environment. It requires EU Member States to set sustainable fishing limits - also known as Total Allowable Catches (TACs) for each type of fish. 

However, since the Common Fisheries Policy was introduced in 2013, EU member states have consistently ignored scientific advice and set unsustainable fishing limits. There has been some progress over the years but crucially they missed the 2020 legal deadline to end overfishing.

Since Brexit, most of these limits are now negotiated between the EU and UK and the most recent negotiations ended with the 2022 fishing limits set above the sustainable scientific advice for one third of the commercial fish stocks managed by the EU and UK.

So we’re taking action. 

Today, our lawyers have filed an internal review request asking the EU Council to review their decision to set fishing limits above scientific advice.  

If the Council refuses to amend its decision, lawyers will ask the Court of Justice of the EU to rule. 

This mechanism was setup to allow for the courts to independently review the decisions made by EU authorities and make sure they’re lawful.

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 widespread 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 end overfishing – this puts at risk the future of fishing activities, especially small-scale fisheries, and the survival of coastal communities."