EU court upholds ban on pulse fishing, Dutch industry hard hit

A pulse fishing net. Photo: Ecomare/Pam Lindeboom via Wikimedia Commons
A pulse fishing net. Photo: Ecomare/Pam Lindeboom via Wikimedia Commons

The EU’s highest court has rejected a Dutch appeal to overturn a ban on pulse fishing.

The Netherlands brought a complaint to the Court of Justice of the European Union in 2019, after the EU parliament outlawed the practice of sending a current of electricity through sections of the sea bed, partially stunning sole and plaice and forcing some into the net.

Judges found that the parliament has wide discretion to regulate the fishing industry and is not obliged to adhere to scientific and technical reports. ‘The EU legislature has sufficiently explained the reasons why it departed from scientific opinions when adopting the provisions in question,’ the court wrote in a press release.

France, in particular, lobbied the court to uphold the ban.

‘Proven environmental benefits do not appear to be sufficient to allow a new fishing technique. This ruling increases the risk of investing in innovation, while innovation is crucial to be able to meet the European ambitions in terms of environmental conservation and more selective fishing,’ the fishing trade organisation VisNed said in a statement.

A report from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea found that pulse fishing was better for the environment than so-called beam fishing, where boats drag nets along the seafloor to catch fish.

Dutch fishermen have invested millions of euros in specialised equipment since the ban on pulse fishing was lifted several years ago under a scheme to allow research into ‘innovative methods’. Some 40% of the Dutch fleet now uses the system.

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