On June 14th 2007 the European Court considered the case of the Azores against the Council of the European Union. Supported by Seas At Risk and other NGOs, the Azores are trying to protect the fish stocks and unique marine environment in their waters from the fishing fleets of other EU states. The case is important not just because of the need to protect the Azorean marine environment but because the outcome could have an effect on the future integration of environmental considerations into the EU’s common fisheries policy and indeed into EU policies more generally.

On June 14th 2007 the European Court considered the case of the Azores against the Council of the European Union. Supported by Seas At Risk and other NGOs, the Azores are trying to protect the fish stocks and unique marine environment in their waters from the fishing fleets of other EU states. The case is important not just because of the need to protect the Azorean marine environment but because the outcome could have an effect on the future integration of environmental considerations into the EU’s common fisheries policy and indeed into EU policies more generally.

The Azores, an autonomous region of Portugal, is attempting to have annulled that part of the Western Waters Regulation which in 2004 opened Azorean waters to the fleets of other EU Member States. In a ground taking development, Seas At Risk, together with WWF and Greenpeace, have been allowed to intervene in the hearing in support of the Azores.

When the Council adopted the Western Waters Regulation it completely ignored the environmental protection that was already in place, and failed to provide alternative protection for the Azores’ unique marine environment. Azorean waters were opened to the fleets of other EU Member States, and protection measures, such as a trawling ban, were regarded as something separate that could be initiated later if need be. This sort of approach runs contrary to the obligations contained in the EC Treaty to integrate environmental protection requirements into the common fisheries policy (CFP); it also runs against the objective of the CFP to progressively implement an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management. The needs of fish stocks, the environment and fishers demand a successful outcome for the Azores.

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