EU law goes global – Compliance of landed fish and aquaculture products with EU legislation

Fisheries and aquaculture markets and regulation, are among the oldest in the world. Both economics and regulatory aspects of thee markets are often opaque. The challenge of their sustainable development typifies many hurdles for modern environmental and trade law. The European Parliament is commissioning research which will in a first instance map the application of EU law to said products. Hopefully it will also provoke some out of the box thinking on addressing regulatory challenges upstream.

There is no great difficulty in the principle of applying EU food and public health standards to the relevant imported products (although as the tender highlights, practical enforcement may be trickier). However from a legal point of view, the issues become more complex in a variety of ways, in particular

– when a jurisdiction decides to restrict or otherwise regulate imports of said products on the basis of their production and processing method carried out elsewhere. This difficulty is compounded when the criteria upon which the importing country regulates, are fuzzy. Examples would include ‘unsustainable management of fishing grounds’, in the absence of existing international standards.

– when a jurisdiction employs non-government labels to steer consumption in a certain direction. The legal complexity in using labels was of course recently clarified at the World Trade Organisation in US Tuna/Dolphin III.

The study to be commissioned by Parliament may not be designed to address all these issues – however jurisdictions like the EU increasingly test the limits of regulating production processes upstream (ie outside one’s jurisdiction) – often the only way effectively to regulate an environmental or public health issue.

Geert.

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