Press release: 15 December 2021

ClientEarth on revamped EU law against eco-criminality: gaping holes but encouraging signs

Lawyers at ClientEarth have said that the update of the Environmental Crimes Directive, published today, contains gaping holes – but may signal a gear shift in enforcement.

ClientEarth lawyer Nils Courcy said: “The Commission had a great opportunity to ensure that major crimes against nature are finally punished proportionately to the damages caused, which is essential as a deterrent for further lawbreaking. But the long-overdue recast of this 2008 directive fails to address some major crimes against nature, like the illegal exploitation and traffic of fish stocks.

“This leaves the door wide open to overfishing and undermines our ocean’s ecosystem and its ability to mitigate climate change.

“Illegal fishing is not currently punished evenly across Europe, which creates a feeling of injustice for fishermen. Major instances of illegal fishing must become an offence under criminal law across Europe. It is key to protecting our resources and ensuring the long fought for objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy are respected.”

ClientEarth did signal, however, that positive steps had been made around illegal timber – and more generally on the policing of environmental crimes.

ClientEarth Head of EU Affairs Anaïs Berthier said: “We are heartened by the suggestion to list illegally placing timber on the market as an offence. The wording used by the Commission also suggests that other deforestation related offences could be added at a later stage, which is a positive development.”

“And we applaud the expansion of the new European Public Prosecutor’s remit to cover the fight against eco-criminality. This will help to enhance cooperation between Member States to tackle transnational crimes.”


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.