The Dutch fishing industry claims the research shows the European Parliament was wrong to ban electric-pulse fishing in the North Sea

The Dutch fishing industry claims the research shows the European Parliament was wrong to ban electric-pulse fishing in the North Sea

The Dutch fishing industry is set to attempt to overthrow the democratic vote of the European Parliament and impose electric-pulse fishing in the North Sea based on a dissertation to be published tomorrow, Monday 25 April 2022.

Horror stories about the effect of pulse fishing can definitely be thrown in the trash claim Dutch fishermen.

“We find no substantial negative effects of electrical stimulation on marine animals,” says Pim Boute about the pulse technique used in the North Sea fishery for sole.

Pim Boute has carried out scientific research for years into the effect of pulses on marine animals and will be awarded his doctorate for this next week. Tomorrow afternoon at 4:00pm sharp, he will publicly defend his dissertation ‘Effects of electrical stimulation on marine organisms’.

“In summary, we see potential to improve and refine the pulse trawl technique. That is why we think it is worthwhile to further investigate this type of trapping technique”, says Boute in the closing chapter of his thesis.

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Muscle Contraction

Nineteen fish species and six invertebrates were studied in more detail. The marine researcher claims there was no evidence found that dogfish (Scyliorhinus canicula), thornback ray (Raja clavata), European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax), turbot (Scophthalmus maximus) and sole (Solea solea) outside the gear are affected by the electric fields. At higher electric field strengths, within the nets around the electrode strands, a muscle contraction takes place. And that is precisely the intention to startle the fish so that they can be caught.

Boutes’ report says that X-rays were taken of exactly 17,085 animals in the lab. Of all the fish species studied, clear evidence of muscle cramp-induced damage has only been found in cod (Gadus morhua); 40 percent of the samples examined were found to have injuries. In particular, specimens of 20–40 centimetres are at risk of spinal injuries and bruising. But the exemption for pulse fishing was only in force in the southern North Sea area IVc and part of IVb. Pulse cutters caught very little cod there anyway. In addition, cod is only at risk close to the electrodes in the net, and caught cod always dies.

Also the effects of pulse electrical exposure on invertebrates have been studied in the common starfish (Asterias rubens), common brittle star (Ophiura ophiura) whelk (Buccinum undatum), velvet sea mouse (Aphrodita aculeata), common hermit crab (Pagurus bernhardus), and common swimming crab (Liocarcinus holsatus). All animals resumed normal behaviour patterns within 30 seconds of exposure.

Boute says, “We found significant changes in activity in the hermit crab and swimming crab that were indicative of increased hiding behaviour. In none of the species we found an effect of electrical exposure on survival after 14 days. These findings suggest that changes in locomotion behavior due to electrical stimulation as used by pulse trawl fisheries are unlikely to compromise the survival of the studied species.”



Prior to the promotion ceremony, a seminar will be organised in the morning entitled ‘Fishing methods revisited’ with speakers from the Netherlands and abroad, including Prof. Dr. Adriaan Rijnsdorp and Dr. Hans Polet. The PhD defense ceremony in the Aula of Wageningen University as well as the seminar in the Zodiac building on the Wageningen University campus are open to the public. Both events can also be followed live online and the promotion will be recorded for later viewing.

Boute started his research in 2016. The main conclusions have been taken into account in the large ICES/WMR study on pulse fishing that was presented two years ago.

Boute currently works at the University of Groningen as a researcher in the Biomimetics department and as a lecturer in Marine Biology.

Electric-Pulse a legitimate solution

Dutch fishing news magazine Visserij Niews claims that despite all the environmental and economic benefits, pulse fishing has been banned by the EU in 2019, following a horror campaign from France about fish electrification. “Last summer the last pulse fishermen had to stop. Now that beam trawlers are in danger of dying as a result of the extremely increased fuel prices, the Dutch government is pressing all the more strongly for revision. In the last Fisheries Council, LNV minister Henk Staghouwer mentioned pulse fishing as a solution for a sustainable future for bottom fishing. The pulse technology almost halved fuel consumption,” says the magazine.

Last month, a motion by Van der Plas (BoerBurgerBeweging) and Bisschop (SGP) was rejected in the House of Representatives in which the two asked the cabinet to investigate the possibilities for pulse fishing in its own exclusive economic zone, while continuing to commit itself at European level to make pulse fishing possible again.

Public ceremony

The public ceremony will start promptly at 4:00 PM on Monday and will last until 5:30 PM in the Aula of Wageningen University (Generaal Foulkesweg 1, Wageningen, The Netherlands).

You can also watch remotely. Use  this link and select “Events” at the top of the screen. You can also look back later via the same link, but then select “Library” and go to the “PhD defences” folder.

The seminar can also be followed online via livestream via:  Teams meeting link .

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Dutch fishing industry claims research legitimises electric-pulse fishing

by editor time to read: 8 min