Sunday 12 July 2020

Dutch trawlers may face pulse fishing ban as EU parliament says no

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

The European parliament on Tuesday voted in favour of a ban on pulse fishing, a decision which it will use in negotiations with the European Commission and which will have a major impact on the Dutch fishing industry, if implemented.

Opponents of the system say it is a cruel and unnecessary method of fishing. It involves sending a current of electricity through sections of the sea bed, partially stunning sole and plaice and forcing some into the net.

Its supporters, however, say pulse fishing is less destructive than beam trawling, which involves dragging a heavy metal bar across the sea bed.

Dutch fishermen have invested millions of euros in specialized equipment since the ban on pulse fishing was lifted several years ago under a scheme to allow ‘innovative methods’ in the name of research.

The Netherlands has at least 84 pulse fishing vessels – more than any other EU country. However, the Guardian says that other vessels, officially registered elsewhere in Europe, may also be financed and operated by Dutch owners.

The Dutch fishing industry has reacted in shock to the decision – even though the EU parliament vote does not necessarily mean a ban will come into force.

Agriculture minister Carola Schouten said the decision is ‘incomprehensible’ and that it would appear that emotions and sentiment have beaten facts and independent research.

‘This is the future of fishing, which stops stirring up the sea bed, you have fewer by catch and use less fuel. These are all things we should be cherishing, not working against,’ the minister said on Twitter.

Tuesday’s decision is ‘a disaster for Dutch fishing and trawler families. The income of 400 families is at stake,’ Christian Democrat MEP Annie Schreijer-Pierink told news agency ANP.

However, GroenLinks MEP Bas Eickhout (GroenLinks) said the Netherlands had shot itself in the foot by granting more licences than the EU had agreed. ‘That has annoyed French fishermen who see their waters being emptied by Dutch trawlers,’ he said.

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