Briefing Paper

Heike Baumüller
  • Two new European regulations entered into force on 1 January 2010. Their aim is to establish a comprehensive system to close the European market to imports of illegally caught fish and to stop illegal activities by EU vessels.
  • Some aspects of the regulations raise questions about their compatibility with World Trade Organization rules. Potential flashpoints include trade sanctions against foreign vessels and countries, and the application of different rules to EU and foreign operators.
  • It seems more likely that a trade dispute would arise over the application of the regulations than over their provisions, for instance if fish exporters take issue with a specific trade ban, or feel that they have to fulfil more onerous requirements than EU nationals.
  • Transparent and fair implementation of the regulations will be important not only to prevent a WTO challenge, but also to ensure that the regulations do indeed meet their objective of curbing illegal fishing.