Why we’re taking the government to court over fishing quota

Posted by Ariana Densham — 23 January 2015 at 3:59pm - Comments
All rights reserved. Credit: Greenpeace
The UKs largest fishing vessel and quota holder the Cornelis Vrolijk

Just what will it take for this government to give a better deal for the UK’s local, sustainable fishermen? Over the last five years, hundreds of thousands of you campaigned to demand our MEPs and ministers deliver a new set of laws to support fair, sustainable fishing.

And we won! 

You campaigned alongside fishermen, celebrity chefs, retailers and environmental groups and secured a victory for citizen power. The historic vote in July 2013 was to fix Europe’s broken fishing system, and finally put us on a path to restore fish stocks, support sustainable fishermen and create new jobs in coastal economies.

Most importantly, it’s now a legal requirement for the UK government to operate transparent criteria for how they’ll distribute fishing quota to our fishing fleet. The criteria must take into account the environment and sustainability.

Such criteria would allow the government to reward those that fish in the right way. This means prioritising, local, low impact fishermen by giving them more fishing quota. This is because they fish sustainably, have lower CO2 emissions and generate more jobs and social wellbeing than the industrial scale fleet. 

And that’s exactly why we’ve taken the government to court.

Instead of giving desperately-needed quota to local, low impact fishers, DEFRA (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) has decided to continue to give most of the UKs fishing quota to industrial fishing businesses – like the vessel Cornelis Vrolijk which alone receives 23% of England’s quota. This will commit many local, sustainable fishermen to bankruptcy for lack of quota and therefore an income.

So we’ve lodged a case at the High Court. We are convinced that DEFRA’s decision to continue to give significant levels of quota to industrial fishing corporations at the expense of low impact fishermen contravenes the new EU fishing laws.

These EU laws are so desperately needed. In the UK, small boats under 10 metres in length make up almost 80% of the fleet, but have a measly 4% of the fishing quota. This is the very definition of the crumbs from the table. This isn’t enough for these fishermen to make a living. Many are facing bankruptcy right now. And this is the fleet which tends to fish in the most sustainable way – and therefore have the most to gain from the new rules. 

Because of all the environmental, social and economic benefits these inshore fishermen bring, they are the sector we most need to look after. But the UK government has changed nothing.

What on earth was all the hard work to reform the broken laws in the first place all for, if at the end of it all nothing changes for those most affected? 

Hopefully this is the first step in the final chapter of the journey to secure a brighter future for fishermen, fish and our oceans. 

Keep tuned for the next exciting development in our campaign as we lead up to the general election in May, as well as for the next important moment in this legal challenge in the coming months. 

About Ariana

I’m Ariana and I’m an campaigner in the Oceans team at Greenpeace UK.  

interested? Follow me on twitter @arianadensham


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