Monday, 27 April 2015

Greenpeace wins permission to take UK government to court over fish quotas

The UK High Court has given the green light for a full judicial review into whether the UK fishing quota allocation system is unlawful under new European law. 

The government has given out fishing quota in largely the same way since the mid-90s. About 95% of the fishing quota is awarded to the larger end of the fleet, most notably domestic and foreign controlled industrial fishing businesses – such as the vessel Cornelis Vrolijk - which we previously exposed. It's symbolic of just how broken the system is.

Meanwhile, local, sustainable fishermen which are the heart of many coastal economies get just 4%. Many are facing bankruptcy and food banks. 

Since the start of 2014, the new Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) obliges European governments to allocate fishing opportunities – such as fishing quota - to their fleets according to new criteria. These must now include environmental and social as well as economic criteria. 

It’s no longer OK to simply dish out fishing quota based on what vessels’ were catching 20 years ago. The system must adapt with the outside world and successive governments can no longer ignore the problem.

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

This is what the full judicial review will be about, and it’s important because the new CFP is fundamentally different from its predecessor in that environmental and social sustainability is at its heart. 

This legal green light comes hot on the heels of manifesto commitments from all the major political parties to give sustainable fishermen more fishing quota, to implement the CFP and to establish marine reserves.

This follows an nine week Greenpeace / Nutfa pre-election boat tour through 23 of the most marginal coastal constituencies in England and Wales. The tour brings together parliamentary candidates, local fishermen and communities to discuss what they’ll do for fish and fishermen if elected. Over 120 candidates have now signed up to become Coastal Champions

With so many blue promises, the next government promises to be an oceans champion no matter which colour they are. This is brilliant news for fishermen, fish and the wider oceans.  

The combination of political promises and a legal challenge means we are one giant step towards a complete overhaul of the way fishing quota is allocated in this country, so that it prioritises and rewards sustainable fishing, rather than the most powerful, or those with the deepest pockets.

And not just in the UK. This legal challenge could have far-reaching consequences for the way fishing quota is allocated in other EU countries.  

But for now, no doubt all eyes are on what happens in the UK. The next few months may prove to be a turning point in the history of the UK's environmental credentials the world over.