David Levy – Finding the target and means for a Legal Challenge – Jun 15

You would think with such blatant and open abuse of our oceans and seas that it would be easy to identify a target to challenge and to bring it forward as a legal case.

The reality check is that it isn’t.

Our oceans and seas are under the stewardship of the EU, and the cracks in the system of administration of its lines of responsibility are legion. So who can bring a legal case in Europe?

The answer would be — if ever considered — by one Member State against another. For a NGO, judicial review could only make it to Europe after being considered in the national Courts of the Member State being accused.

This is how Greenpeace are trying to raise a judicial review of fishing quota allocations by the British Government, and have recently received permission to go ahead. It has taken them in excess of 3 years to gather the data, and it is not clear yet whether they will see the case through. This is the position for an international NGO with greater resources than Marinet (not difficult, eh?). Yet, for a multitude of reasons cases rarely surface.

As mentioned in earlier blogs, I have expressed my personal wish to further real time change. My assessment has been that letters and attempts to exert influence fail the “conservation mandate”, and so we have to turn to the legal avenue to open the doors which are not restricted by charitable status. That’s pretty much left to us, as every other major influential NGO has followed this route of stabilising their organisations by charitable status!

Marinet is financially reliant on you who read this blog, and those of you who are paid up Marinet Members and supporters of our limited company status. At present, we can only raise a legal case when legal advice is pro bono and the liability is restricted.

Once upon a time we could seek legal aid, but that door was quickly closed when the case was “us against the existing government”. Democracy is a much over-used word, and once again the reality is that the NGO organisations have fewer and fewer options by which to challenge the wrongs of this world. This may explain the direction of self-survival that the NGO movement in general has taken.

The implications of what I am saying is that Government and governments are at the heart of environmental illegality; and the fishing industry, backed by criminal actions, exploits the widening gaps of where conservation can be undermined. Its rife, and our future stocks are not secured by our existing management structures.

Over 60% of our stocks are fished beyond scientific advice or on a basis where we have inadequate data to make a scientific assessment. It is clear that the Precautionary Principle would advise that we take greater strides towards protection, and to establish fish food security for future generations.

It is also clear that the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), the EU Law that is meant to protect fish stocks and food security, is being redefined and watered down because it is strong. A strong MSFD would change attitudes and deliver timeline targets, but already some of those targets have elapsed and certainly, from my personal experience, DEFRA officials make excuses for these lapses. It’s tantamount to a policeman finding justifications for crime.

It’s not acceptable and demonstrates that yet again the only thing that will change these attitudes is legal accountability.

So the point to all of this both is, and must be, to challenge the Minister of DEFRA over a specific action of his and his Ministry in the English courts. The target and the issue has to be found, and here we are grateful to our volunteers for their direction.

David Levy

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