ClientEarth: Challenging the EU to end overfishing

September 24, 2022

ClientEarth: Challenging the EU
to end overfishing

ClientEarth is taking legal action against EU ministers for allowing hugely unsustainable fishing to take place, damaging fish populations beyond measure. In fact, 40% of fish stocks in the North-East Atlantic are still overfished – meaning they are being fished faster than they can breed and recover their numbers.

EU ministers representing each country in the EU Council are supposed to collectively set fishing limits that protect species from being fished too much, and in Europe they had a legal obligation to end overfishing by 2020. But despite this, fishing limits set for 2022 were above the sustainable scientific advice  for one third of the commercial fish stocks managed by the EU and UK. For Pollack, the limit agreed exceeds what scientists advised by almost 1,000 tonnes – the equivalent of around 100,000 pollacks.

ClientEarth is arguing that setting fishing limits above scientific advice is in breach of EU law in its request to the Council to revise its fishing limits.

In doing this, ClientEarth is directly challenging all EU countries at once as they are collectively responsible for encouraging and support overfishing. This is the first time fishing limits have been directly challenged at EU level, thanks to ClientEarht’s success last year on improving access to justice rules in the EU.

That case resulted in a landmark reform of access to justice laws in the EU – lifting the barriers that prevented NGOs and individual people from challenging the EU directly on environmental issues. The case took thirteen years but it has opened the door to a new way to bring legal challenges against environmental wrongdoings.