EU Tuna-Fishing Slip-Up Won’t Spawn Compensation

This picture of early tuna purse seining operations in the tropical Pacific Ocean illustrates the potential for fishermen to inadvertently catch dolphins and other marine mammals as byproduct. (Courthouse News Service via NOAA)

(CN) – Nearly a decade ago, Spanish vessels had a week longer than the ships of five other countries to fish for bluefin tuna. The European Court of Justice ruled Wednesday that this error does not support an award of millions to several aggrieved Italian fishermen.

Italian vessel owner Salvatore Aniello Pappalardo brought the underlying challenge in 2013, five years after regulators with the European Commission made changes to the authorizations for bluefin tuna fishing with purse seine nets.

The authorizations in 2008 were set to run through June 30, but the commission said seiners flying the flags of Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy and Malta would have to rein in their nets by June 16, 2008.

Vessels flying the Spanish flag meanwhile were allowed to fish until June 23.

Though the commission adopted the change to avert a serious threat to the conservation and recovery of the bluefin tuna stock in the Eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean, the Court of Justice found in 2011 that differences in treatment for the various fisherman were unjustifiable.

That ruling struck down the regulation as invalid, but the General Court disagreed in 2013 that the favorable treatment toward Spanish fishermen opened the door for Pappalardo and the other Italians to claim $7.7 million in compensation.

The Court of Justice found some errors as well with the General Court’s handling of Pappalardo’s case but dismissed the fisherman’s appeal for other reasons Wednesday.

“Since the illegality affecting Regulation No 530/2008, which worked in favor of Spanish seiners, did not concern the appellants’ situation, the appellants could not rely on that illegality for the purposes of their action,” an English translation of the ruling states.

Later the ruling continues: “in the circumstances of this case there can be no non-contractual liability on the part of the European Union vis-à-vis the appellants.”

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