Press release: 12 December 2023

“Illegal. Again.” ClientEarth responds to annual fishing limits charade

EU fishing ministers have now set annual fishing limits for 2024, approving quotas for EU-only stocks, EU-UK shared stocks and EU-UK-Norway shared stocks.

ClientEarth Fisheries science and policy advisor Jenni Grossmann said: “Ministers are still approving quotas that are, predictably, illegal – and fail to take into account the knock-on effects of stock collapse on ocean health.

“It is bizarre to see decisions made on behalf of an industry that will eventually secure the demise of that industry.”

ClientEarth is currently suing EU Ministers for failing to end overfishing by 2020.


Notes to editors:

According to the most recent data from the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF), an official advisory body of the EU, 26% of assessed Northeast Atlantic stocks are still overfished, and 38% are outside safe biological limits, i.e. are at an increased risk of collapse.

The approval of fishing limits comes following the ‘December Council’, where EU Ministers met in Brussels to set annual fishing limits for EU-only stocks and approve the already agreed fishing limits set last week by decision-makers for EU-UK stocks and EU-UK-Norway stocks.

ClientEarth has annually called Ministers out on ignoring the law and science when setting annual fishing limits:

2020: EU’s self-imposed legal deadline to end overfishing

In October 2022, ClientEarth took all EU fisheries ministers to court for allowing unsustainable fishing limits for EU only and EU-UK shared stocks in the North-East Atlantic.

Two years ago, ClientEarth lawyers joined with local NGOs to launch two other cases challenging the national implementation of the 2020 EU fishing limits regulation, in France and in the Republic of Ireland.

In February 2022, the Irish High Court made the pivotal decision to ask the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) to rule on the legality of the EU decision fixing fishing limits for 2020.

In March 2023, the EU’s top advisor for the CJEU, known as the Advocate General, released its opinion on the case, and backed the environmental groups claims, recommending that governments set all fishing limits at sustainable levels from now on. A ruling from the CJEU is expected on 11 January 2024.

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.