Press release: 20 December 2022

New EU-UK deal keeps flirting with disaster for depleted fish stocks 

ClientEarth experts have said that the EU-UK annual deal on fishing limits for their shared stocks in 2023 is failing to bring struggling cod and whiting stocks back from the brink.  

While EU and UK representatives have set more fishing limits in line with scientific advice, the fate of depleted stocks like Irish Sea whiting, Celtic Sea cod and West of Scotland cod still hangs by a thread.  

This is because both the EU and the UK have once again refused to follow scientific advice that these stocks should not be caught at all – meaning that fisheries that routinely catch these stocks by accident would need to be closed, or at the very least seriously restricted.   

ClientEarth Fisheries science and policy advisor Jenni Grossmann said: 

"The EU-UK deal is a small step in the right direction, but nowhere near enough to bring depleted cod and whiting stocks back from the brink. They are the collateral victims of unselective trawls that are sweeping up pretty much everything in their path while trying to catch species like Norway lobster and haddock. 

“Unless the EU and the UK jointly prioritise the swift recovery of these most vulnerable stocks and decide to finally restrict fisheries for haddock and Norway lobster, they might never come back. This is not only bad for cod and whiting, but also for the future of fishers that depend on a healthy ocean full of fish.” 

Earlier this year, ClientEarth took all EU ministers to court for setting unsustainable 2022 limits for one third of EU-only and EU-UK shared stocks – in violation of their long-missed legal deadline to end overfishing by 2020.  

Grossmann added: "Despite all proclaimed ambitions at COP15 to protect biodiversity, today’s deal means that genuinely sustainable fishing across the board remains a pipe dream for both the EU and the UK. Fish are not simply an economic resource – they're a crucial puzzle piece holding our ocean and our climate together, and decision-makers need to start treating them that way.” 

The EU-UK deal follows the setting of EU-only fishing limits this week, during which EU ministers ignored scientists' alarm bells and opted to keep fishing the critically endangered eel.



Notes to editors:

Read our reaction on the setting of EU only fishing limits for 2023.

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.

This is the first time ClientEarth lawyers have directly challenged all EU fisheries ministers via the Council thanksnew EU access to justice rules.

Before the reform of EU access to justice rules was completed in 2021, lawyers had launched other indirect challenges to the Council for breaching the EU’s legal obligation to end overfishing by 2020.

For example, 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. The Irish Court recently madethe ground-breaking move to ask the Court of Justice of the EU to rule on the legality of the EU decision fixing fishing limits for 2020. The French case is still pending.

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.