France’s failure to police its fishing habits has earned it a whale of a punishment. France has been breaking conservation laws since 1984. Now it has to pay for it. For the first time, the European Court of Justice has imposed a 20-million-euro fine to start with, plus a penalty every six months of 57.7 million euros until Paris proves it is complying with European Union fisheries laws. Europe’s highest court said its judgement took into account “the seriousness of the infringement and France’s ability to pay”. It already condemned Paris in 1991, for not doing enough to enforce community-wide measures aimed at ensuring fish stocks could replenish. The French government ignored two subsequent written warnings. The national authorities are supposed to make sure fishermen use correct net sizes and do not catch or sell undersized fish. If the species caught does not measure up to the statutory minimum, it has to be thrown back. Overfishing has been blamed for an alarming drop in ocean resources recently. Every year the European Commission proposes emergency corrective measures; France is among the most argumentative member states in the negotiations.