Court thumbs down to farmers' compensation bid
Fish Farming Today
11th July 2003
The European Court of Justice has ruled in relation to a case involving Booker Aquaculture Ltd and Hydro Seafood GSP Ltd v The Scottish Ministers that there is no automatic compensation for fish farmers who are required by Community law to destroy their stocks which are infected by a contagious disease
The court has found that a Community directive, and the national measures implementing it, which do not provide for compensation for the owners of the infected fish, do not infringe the right to property if they correspond to objectives of general interest pursued by the Community and do not constitute a disproportionate and intolerable interference impairing the very substance of that right.
In the United Kingdom, the Community legislation was implemented by regulations of 1992 and 1994.
Two fish farms in Scotland were affected: one, Booker Aquaculture, by an outbreak of VHS in 1994; the other, Hydro Seafood, by an outbreak of ISA in 1998. Both farms were required, under ministerial orders, to destroy fish that had not reached commercial size and to market prematurely, after their evisceration, fish that had reached that size. Both Booker and Hydro sought compensation from the Scottish public authorities for the losses suffered. Those claims were rejected.
Both undertakings brought legal proceedings against the public authorities. The Court of Session, before which the cases were brought, asked the Court of Justice of the EC whether the right to property requires farmers, whose fish have had to be destroyed under the 1993 directive, to be compensated.