A group of conservationists have filed a lawsuit against the United Kingdom for their illegal depletion of fish populations.
Marine conservationists are taking legal action against the UK government for disregarding scientific recommendations and setting catch limits for fish populations higher than allowed under their post-Brexit regulations.
In January, a legal dispute will commence asserting that the government is unlawfully wasting a public resource and disregarding regulations designed to promote sustainable fishing practices.
Annually, the United Kingdom, the European Union, and Norway hold talks to establish catch limits for jointly fished species for the upcoming year. These discussions are guided by a separate scientific organization to determine sustainable levels. In the current month, for the third consecutive year, government officials have approved setting at least half of the catch limits for shared stocks above the recommended scientific levels. This decision has been criticized by the Blue Marine Foundation as it allows for potential overfishing.
In 2024, the UK, EU, and Norway have reached an agreement for a deal that will provide the UK fleet with 750,000 tonnes of fishing opportunities valued at £970m.
The fisheries minister, Mark Spencer, stated that recommendations from science were used to establish agreements that placed restrictions on catching 70 different types of fish in the North Sea and north-east Atlantic. This was done to promote a fishing industry that is both sustainable and profitable. However, NGOs focused on conservation and environmental law have expressed disapproval towards ministers from all participating countries, cautioning that numerous fish populations are still significantly depleted and face serious danger.
Charles Clover, one of the founders of Blue Marine, expressed concerns about the actions of Defra ministers in regards to post-Brexit laws. He questioned how much longer the British public, fishing industry, and Treasury would allow them to continuously and deceitfully disregard these laws. He also called for someone to challenge them in the interest of the nation.
Blue Marine has contacted government officials stating that it plans to request permission for a legal review of the decision regarding fishing opportunities in 2024, as long as it aligns with the government’s announcement on December 8, 2023.
The government implemented the Fisheries Act, the first fisheries law in 40 years, with the goal of establishing a top-quality management system that utilizes the most advanced scientific research to maintain the well-being and viability of fish populations.
Conservationists state that the actual situation is not the same. During the initial year after Brexit, over 65% of catch limits exceeded the recommendations of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (Ices), an independent scientific organization. In the following year, this number decreased to 57%.
Defra’s “provisional estimate” for this year shows that the number of jointly managed stocks, which have been allocated according to scientific advice, remains the same as last year. This marks the third year since the new regime was implemented. Some of the allocations included fishing opportunities for stocks that scientists believe should not be fished, such as two new at-risk species: Channel and Celtic Seas pollack and Irish sea sole.
ClientEarth, a charity organization, filed a lawsuit against EU ministers last year regarding the 2022 catch limits in the north-east Atlantic. These catch limits pertain to shared fish populations between the EU and the UK, as well as stocks found in EU waters. The case is currently awaiting a verdict.
A representative from Defra stated that the UK has prioritized sustainability in its efforts to sustain the viability of the country’s fishing industry. Catch limits have been established in accordance with the requirements outlined in the Fisheries Act 2020 and the Joint Fisheries Statement.
“In these discussions, we advocated for decisions to be informed by the most reliable scientific data in order to safeguard important fish populations, utilizing evidence from Ices as our foundation.”
A representative from the European Commission emphasized the necessity of achieving a fair and prudent agreement. They stated that scientific recommendations were considered, along with socioeconomic and other data, in order to justify catch limits that are strictly limited to sustain the fishing industry.