Chapter 5: Precautionary fishing
This chapter considers the precautionary approach to fisheries management set by international law and which underpins the management of EU marine fisheries. The distinction between the precautionary principle, a concept recognised in EU law but not international law, and the precautionary approach is analysed. The precautionary principle operates under EU law to protect against risks to human health and only applies to the environment if human welfare may be compromised. Even though the precautionary approach is understood not to require certainty of damage before the adoption of measures to restrict fishing, in practice, it is only applied where there is certainty that damage will occur. In its external fisheries policy, the EU evinces no inclination to promote the sustainability of the resource and exercise precaution in the negotiation of stock share and, instead, competes to maximise its own allocation. For its part, with regard to the CFP, the Court of Justice has refused to interpret the precautionary approach to give effect to the precautionary principle. The inability of the precautionary approach to ensure the sustainability of the resource is indicated by the intention to move to an ecosystem-based approach which is expected to establish an integrated approach to policy-determination. As the EU is committed to achieving the environmental objective of good environmental status for the seas, the ecosystem-based approach requires the introduction of an MSY standard for fish extraction. However, according to regulation, the negative impacts of fishing are to be minimised rather than avoided and ecological protections are required only within designated conservation areas or biologically sensitive areas.
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