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Estuaries in European Community Law: Defining Criteria

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image of The International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law

In 1996, the English High Court quashed the Secretary of State's decisions to designate the Humber and Severn bridges as the outer limits of the Humber and Severn Estuaries, for the purposes of implementing the 1991 EC Directive on Urban Waste Water Treatment. The judicial review centred around the meaning of the term "estuary" which, although well established in scientific literature, has apparently never been subject to judicial consideration in EC or international law. In the absence of a clear definition of an estuary, the court held that in designating these bodies of water under the Directive, the government must take into account all the relevant circumstances relating to their objective characteristics-including salinity and topography-having regard to the purpose of the Directive. Economic considerations may not, however, be taken into account in this exercise, in the absence of express provision in the Directive to that effect.

Affiliations: 1: Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development; 2: EnAct International


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