In a judgement delivered this morning, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that the European Commission discriminated against a Maltese company, AJD Tuna, when a regulation in 2008 prohibited fishing for tuna by purse seiners.
On 12 June 2008, the Commission adopted a regulation which prohibited purse seiners flying the flag of Greece, France, Italy, Cyprus or Malta from fishing for bluefin tuna in the Eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean from 16 June 2008, and purse seiners flying the Spanish flag from 23 June 2008.
This one week difference was unwarranted, according to today’s judgement by the ECJ.
AJD Tuna is part of Azzopardi fisheries, Malta’s main player in the tuna industry. The company instituted legal proceedings against the Maltese Director of Fisheries and the European Commission seeking compensation for damages it claimed to have suffered as a result of this prohibition.
In today’s judgement, the Court finds that the regulation is invalid in so far as it treats Spanish purse seiners differently from other purse seiners without such difference in treatment being objectively justified in view of the objective pursued, which was the protection of the bluefin tuna stock.
News site timesofmalta.com reports that ECJ sources have told them that this judgement is now expected to open compensation claims from the other fishermen involved including Maltese, Italian, Greek, French and Cypriot fishermen.