Secret EU minutes show unsustainable #fishing quotas set with ‘scant justification’

| February 24, 2017 | 0 Comments

overfishing-overview-08022012-WEB_109842EU fishing quotas were set higher than advised by scientists and the European Commission without sufficient economic or social justification, an access to information request has revealed. This breaches EU transparency law and undermines EU fisheries law.

Council minutes, supposed to detail the two-day discussion and the evidence that resulted in 20% of the 2017 quotas being set higher than proposed by the Commission, contain just a single paragraph saying: “The Council reached unanimous political agreement.”

Supporting evidence is sparse or missing completely in the documents provided in response to the access to information request. Instead, EU countries made a range of unsubstantiated claims that the quota cuts proposed by the Commission would have “unbearable socio-economic effects”, or were simply “unacceptable”.

ClientEarth Chief Executive James Thornton said: “These documents show the Council continues to flout the law by setting unsustainable catch limits without sufficient evidence. The law is very clear. Fishing must be made sustainable without delay, unless there is compelling proof that this would have serious social and economic consequences. With no details in the minutes, we must assume that the Council waved through ill-advised, unsustainable catch limits with scant regard for the law, the ocean or the future of industries which depend on healthy fish stocks.

“EU countries continue to successfully push for many quotas for important species – including several cod stocks and southern hake – to be unsustainably high. The law says that in three years, all fish will have to be caught at sustainable levels, with no exceptions. Fisheries ministers need to move towards sustainable fishing limits to avoid serious shocks to industry and consumers in 2020.”

ClientEarth made the access to information request to establish why the Council of Ministers set 2017 fishing quotas for several stocks higher than scientific recommendations and the Commission’s proposal.

With no information in the minutes and no sound evidence in the countries’ negotiating positions, it appears ministers are allowing overfishing to continue without question and without proof.

The minutes undermine fisheries law and breach EU transparency law, because they don’t show how the decision was reached. Crucially, the minutes should document the discussion and evidence presented to support arguments for higher quotas. This flexibility is only possible until 2020, after which all quotas must be set at sustainable levels.

ClientEarth is asking the Council for the missing evidence to fight for greater transparency in the European Union and will consider its legal options based on the information received.

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Category: A Frontpage, Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe (CPMR), EU, European Parliament, Illegal fishing, Maritime, Overfishing

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