Greenpeace seeks legal action over unfair fishing quota

Last edited 26 January 2015 at 12:44pm
26 January, 2015

Greenpeace has lodged a case at the High Court over the government’s decision to continue to give significant levels of quota to industrial fishing corporations, at the expense of local, low impact fishermen.

Greenpeace argue that this decision by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) contravenes European fishing law, the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

 After a successful campaign from NGOs, fishers, MPs and MEPs, the much-maligned CFP was successfully reformed in 2013.  For the first time, the CFP requires EU Member States to set out criteria they use to decide how quota will be allocated to fishing interests. It compels governments to adopt criteria that prioritise quota for businesses that fish in an environmentally sustainable way and most contribute to national coastal economic and social wellbeing.

 Greenpeace believe that according to the CFP, local, low impact fishermen should receive more quota because they fish more sustainably, have lower CO2 emissions and provide greater employment and job creation opportunities than the industrial scale fleet.

 DEFRA has not published new criteria for the way it distributes fishing quota publically since the new CFP came into force in January 2014.  In correspondence to Greenpeace, Elizabeth Truss, the Environment Secretary, was clear that the government would not be changing its allocation of fishing quota in response to the reforms in the CFP.

  Greenpeace say that the government has failed to implement key aspects of the CFP as it currently allocates quota based on vessels’ historic fishing levels between 1994 and 1996.  Consequently, industrial scale fishing vessels and foreign fishing corporations which were hoovering up vast quantities of fish from UK waters in the mid-1990s are still rewarded with huge amounts of quota now.

 Greenpeace say that currently local, low impact fishermen received six per cent of the English quota, while a single Dutch controlled factory fishing vessel, the Cornelis Vrolijk, receives nearly a quarter of the English quota, and foreign controlled corporations receive 43 per cent of the total English quota. The campaigners believe that this level of inequality in fishing quota distribution would not be possible if the government decided to implement the CFP.

 Sarah North, Greenpeace Head of Oceans campaign said:

“Successive governments have steadfastly ignored coastal economies and the needs of our sustainable fishermen. There were deep flaws in the old Common Fisheries Policy, but now the law has been reformed, and this government is missing a huge opportunity to create and protect thousands jobs around the coast and maintain and improve fish stocks.

 “The government is currently starving our local, low impact of quota, sending some of them to bankruptcy or food banks. Meanwhile just one Dutch controlled vessel continues to get a mammoth amount of fishing quota because the system of allocating quota hasn’t changed since the 1990s. This is despite the change in the CFP that says that fishing quota should be used to incentivise sustainable fishing and benefit coastal economies.  So it’s not just blatantly unfair, it’s also unlawful.”

Jerry Percy of the Low Impact Fishers of Europe said:

“It remains a fundamental travesty that massive, foreign owned vessels, towing huge nets in relatively shallow inshore waters, with engine power 80 times bigger than many local boats, are given vast amounts of British quota by our government, when our own smaller scale sustainable fishermen’s boats are tied up and facing bankruptcy. The government needs to put this law into action and put low impact, local fishermen first in the queue for quota.”

Kate Blagojevic

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