Regulation of Fishing Methods and Gear
This consultative opinion dealt with alleged incompatibility of certain European Community fishing policy with international and Community environmental law concerning the conservation of marine living resources. The petitioners asked specifically for an opinion on the need for a fishing reserve in the area of the Bay of Biscay, to restrict fishing to those vessels using traditional methods, barring driftnets, trawling and other non-selective means of fishing. Driftnet and open trawling methods had a significant negative impact on several species of fish, and fish catch had been decreasing drastically among the traditional fishing fleets. The court analyzed international treaties, general rules and principles of international environmental law, and relevant Community law and came to the conclusion that the Community fishing policy with its ban on driftnet fishing and new control measures would provide the framework for conformity to and compliance with international law. The Community and each member state had to ensure effective implementation of the Community measures and application of general international law prohibiting non-selective methods of taking living resources. While the establishment and enforcement of a fishing reserve in the Bay of Biscay, restricted to traditional fishing methods, was one means available to eliminate non-selective fishing in the region, it was not the only measure that could be taken to reduce unsustainable fishing practices. The choice among various methods to give effect to the obligation of in situ conservation was not dictated by international law and remained for determination by the Community and the member states in accordance with their respective powers, provided the measures complied with and were effective to satisfy international obligations.