A British High Court judge granted permission to Greenpeace to argue that this decision by the UK Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is unlawful because it contravenes new European fishing law, the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).
The reformed CFP requires EU Member States to set out environmental, social and economic criteria to decide how fishing quota will be allocated to fishing businesses.
Greenpeace believes that according to the 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.
The legal challenge brought by Greenpeace could have far-reaching consequences for the allocation of fishing opportunities in the UK and other EU member states.
Sarah North, Greenpeace Head of Oceans campaign in the UK said: “Successive governments have steadfastly ignored coastal economies and the needs of our local, 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 of jobs around the coast and maintain and improve fish stocks.
“The UK government is currently starving our local, low impact fleet of fishing 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 fundamental 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 controlled 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 fishing quota by our government, when our own smaller scale sustainable fishermen’s boats are tied up and facing bankruptcy. The UK government needs to put this law into action and put low impact, local fishermen first in the queue for quota.”
Greenpeace say that currently local, low impact fishermen receive six per cent of the English quota, while a single UK flagged but 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 fishing quota.