Press release: 20 September 2023

Court hearing: Dutch authorities refuse to investigate violations of EU fisheries rules

Today, ClientEarth lawyers were in The Hague administrative court in a hearing against the Dutch Food and Consumer Safety Authority (NVWA) for failing to properly check the fish landing in their ports.

ClientEarth lawyer Nils Courcy said:

“Today in court, the NVWA refused again to investigate concrete violations that we had warned them of. These breaches include failure to properly weigh the fish landed, ships switching off the geopositioning tracker, industrial vessels discarding huge quantities of fish, or lack of compliance with the obligation to land all catches in ports.

“We want to make sure these violations stop, but it is the authority’s job to carry out these checks and investigate suspicious activities. This is key to avoid overfishing and prevent huge quantities of illegal fish from entering the market.

“We are asking the Dutch authorities to enforce the law and improve fisheries control activities in the Netherlands. Without this, there can be no such thing as sustainable fisheries.”

A judgment is expected in early November.


Notes to editors:


In the initial request for enforcement ClientEarth and Low Impact Fishers of Europe (LIFE) filed to the NVWA on 15 June 2021 and in the complaint filed to the Dutch court on 24 January 2023, several specific asks were included. For instance, the organisations requested:

  • Ministers to provide enough financial and human resources to the NVWA to improve the fisheries control system.
  • NVWA to increase and improve inspections of vessels landing fresh and frozen fish in Dutch ports – in compliance with EU law.
  • NVWA to ensure that all the fish is weighed properly at landings (according to applicable binding methodology).


October 2020: the European Commission warned the Dutch government against serious breaches of the EU Fisheries Control Regulation.

May 2021: an investigation published in Dutch media revealed the lack of resources to monitor and control the fish landed in Dutch ports.

June 2021: ClientEarth and Low Impact Fishers of Europe lodged an administrative request to the NVWA to enforce the law.

September 2022: NVWA published a report highlighting high risks of fraud in the Dutch fisheries sector.

January 2023: After a last warning, ClientEarth and LIFE filed the case before the Hague administrative court.

About ClientEarth

ClientEarth is a non-profit organisation that uses the law to create systemic change that protects the Earth for – and with – its inhabitants. We are tackling climate change, protecting nature and stopping pollution, with partners and citizens around the globe. We hold industry and governments to account, and defend everyone’s right to a healthy world. From our offices in Europe, Asia and the USA we shape, implement and enforce the law, to build a future for our planet in which people and nature can thrive together.