EU Rule Could Prove Expensive For Fishermen

A little-known EU rule could have expensive implications for our islands’ commercial fishermen if a challenge by environmental groups is successful.

The Council’s Maritime Officer, Steve Watt, says the EU’s Natura 2000 Directive, which was introduced to protect wildlife habitats across Europe, includes a small paragraph related to fishing in designated European Marine Sites.

And Scilly lies right in the middle of a 4-mile square designated site.

Steve says 18 months ago, the Marine Conservation Society and Client Earth challenged the UK Government for not enforcing this piece of legislation.

And if they don’t provide a response by the end of this month, they’ll be taken to the European Court for a ruling.

Steve says the legislation is aimed at limiting the activity of damaging bottom trawlers, which aren’t used around our shores.

But it still means commercial fishermen using static gear could have to produce a lengthy and expensive risk assessment to show their activities won’t harm the Marine Site.

Steve says the UK is lagging behind other countries in applying these rules and the Government seemed to be hoping it would go away.

And it’s frustrating because Defra have known about the issue for 18 months. They now need to decide what they do about it.

He’s hopeful their response will placate the environmental lobby, but if it doesn’t, he says they “don’t have a plan B.”

However, Steve says any ruling from the European Court will probably take a couple of years to works its way through the system.