Blue Marine Foundation sues UK government for enabling overfishing

Blue Marine Foundation Co-Founder and Senior Advisor Charles Clover
Blue Marine Foundation Co-Founder and Senior Advisor Charles Clover | Photo courtesy of the Blue Marine Foundation
6 Min

Marine conservation NGO Blue Marine Foundation has taken legal action against the U.K. government, claiming it has breached its own laws by repeatedly setting fishing quotas for more than half of U.K. stocks at levels higher than those guided by scientific advice.

The London, U.K.-based NGO is arguing that the government’s mismanagement of fish stocks is an irresponsible use of national assets and runs counter to the interests of the nation’s fishermen. The organization is also warning this overfishing will lead to the depletion of key species such as mackerel, Celtic Sea cod, monkfish, and Irish Sea whiting.

According to Blue Marine, these exceedingly high fishing opportunities are illegal under the post-Brexit fishing law that requires management of U.K. fisheries to be based on the best available scientific advice and for any decisions to be made transparently.

On 24 January, Blue Marine issued a pre-action protocol letter to U.K. Secretary of State for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs Steve Barclay, requesting the government admit liability for breaching its legal duty to conserve stocks and acknowledge the excessive levels of secrecy it placed around setting fishing opportunities.

Blue Marine Co-Founder Charles Clover said the foundation specifically asked the government to provide information on why it believed it was justified setting quotas above scientific advice. It also questioned whether information on the likely impact setting quotas too high would place on employment and food security, as well as fish populations, was available and whether the government took this into account.

“These were factors that Blue Marine believes should have been considered for the decision to be lawful, as fishing opportunities are a national asset,” Clover said. “The government provided little or no information in response to Blue Marine’s questions as to how the minister’s decisions complied with its own 2020 Fisheries Act, which has four objectives to do with the long-term sustainability of fish populations, as well as socioeconomic objectives.”

Blue Marine followed up these requests by threatening litigation on 2 February on the basis that the U.K. exceeded scientific advice, gave no evidence as to why it did so, and there was no evidence the government weighed socioeconomic impact and scientific advice in its decision-making.

“We gave the U.K. government two weeks to respond; it finally replied on 28 February, and it gave little or no evidence to support its decision,” Clover said.

Without satisfactory answers to Blue Marine’s questions, the organization issued

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