Greenpeace Vs UK Government: Trawler fishing

Meanwhile, in a case which came before the High Court this month, Greenpeace have failed in their attempts to ensure that stronger measures are taken by Government in order to protect dolphins from trawling in the English Channel.

In the case of R (on the application of Greenpeace Ltd) v Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs the provisions of the Directive on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild flora and fauna (Directive 92/43/EC) were considered along with two items of UK legislation, the Sea and Fisheries Conservation Act 1967 and the South-west Territorial Waters (Prohibition of Pair Trawling) Order 2004.

Greenpeace were seeking to apply to Court in order to have an Order made by the Secretary of State overturned, on the grounds that the ban on "pair" trawling for sea bass within 12 miles of the Devon and Cornwall coasts forced fishermen into deeper waters, where there were more dolphins and thus increased the chances that dolphins become caught up in the nets hung between the boats of sea bass fishermen.

Non-target species are killed in this way are known as 'by-catch' and according to Article 12(4) of the Habitats Directive, Member States were required to establish a system to monitor the bycatch of animals such as dolphins, and take further measures if necessary to ensure that bycatch did not have a significant negative impact on the species concerned.

Although the Court found that there was there was "no substantial scientific basis" for saying the 12-mile exclusion zone would save dolphins, the South-west Territorial Waters (Prohibition of Pair Trawling) Order 2004 was considered to achieve the purpose of conserving fauna associated with a marine or coastal environment, for which the Secretary of State had the power to make, and had exercised this power to make the order reasonably. The application by Greenpeace was therefore rejected.

While Greenpeace were granted permission to take the case to the Court of Appeal, their appeal was dismissed following a hearing on 31 October 2005.

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