Greenpeace secures judicial review of how UK fishing quotas are distributed

Greenpeace press report, 24th April 2015, states: “A full judicial review into the government’s decision to continue to give nearly the entire UK fishing quota to domestic industrial and foreign corporations, at the expense of local, low impact fishermen, has been given the green light by the High Court today.

“Mrs Justice Andrews granted permission to Greenpeace to argue that this decision by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is unlawful because it contravenes new European fishing law, the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

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 reformed CFP requires EU Member States to set out the criteria they will use to decide how fishing quota will be allocated to fishing businesses.

DEFRA has not changed its criteria for the way it distributes fishing quota publicly since the new CFP came into force in January 2014.  In correspondence to Greenpeace, Elizabeth Truss, the Environment Secretary, was clear that the government would not be changing its allocation of fishing quota in response to the reforms in the CFP.

Sarah North, Greenpeace Head of Oceans campaign 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 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 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.

Source: Greenpeace Press Release, 24th April 2015. For the full text, see:


For more information, call Kate Blagojevic (Greenpeace) on 07801 212 959

The grounds for the case are available.

Article 17 of the Common Fisheries Policy: “When allocating the fishing opportunities available to them, as referred to in Article 16, Member States shall use transparent and objective criteria including those of an environmental, social and economic nature. The criteria to be used may include, inter alia, the impact of fishing on the environment, the history of compliance, the contribution to the local economy and historic catch levels. Within the fishing opportunities allocated to them, Member States shall endeavour to provide incentives to fishing vessels deploying selective fishing gear or using fishing techniques with reduced environmental impact, such as reduced energy consumption or habitat damage.”

Recital 33 of the Common Fisheries Policy:

“Access to a fishery should be based on transparent and objective criteria including those of an environmental, social and economic nature. Member States should promote responsible fishing by providing incentives to those operators who fish in the least environmentally damaging way and who provide the greatest benefits for society.”

In late 2014, Greenpeace launched a public campaign calling for the government to put local fishermen first in the queue for fishing quota. A Greenpeace investigation revealed:

  • The small scale, under 10 metre vessels have access to 4 per cent of UK fishing quota, and 6 per cent of English fishing quota.
  • The five largest foreign controlled vessels hold 32 per cent of the English quota
  • One UK flagged, but Dutch-controlled vessel holds 23 per cent of the English fishing quota

Small scale fishing provides 65 per cent of the jobs at sea in England and Wales, and there is significant evidence from the New Economics Foundation that suggests that if fish stocks were restored, the UK would gain Euro 469.8 million in revenue, and increase the number of jobs in fishing by 3000

A government commissioned report revealed that the economic benefit to the UK economy from foreign controlled vessels is minimal. (A review of the effectiveness of the economic link, 2009)

Greenpeace say that the government has failed to implement key aspects of the CFP because the whole UK fishing quota allocation system continues to be based on the historic track records of what vessels were catching   between 1994 and 1996. This method does not involve any environmental considerations. Consequently, industrial scale fishing vessels and foreign fishing corporations which were hoovering up vast quantities of fish from UK waters in the mid-1990s are still rewarded with huge amounts of fishing quota now.

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