Dutch pulsers are still upset at not being allowed to continue using the electric pulse fishing method

Pulsers in the Dutch fishing industry is still sore over losing the fight to make electric pulse fishing legal in the European Union.

Writing today, the online publication Visserij.nl slammed research carried out in a 2019 article called Public subsidies have supported the development of electric trawling in Europe‘ which was published by Le Manach and its colleagues in Marine Policy.

Visserij.nl has called the research “lies” and “deception”, claiming that three of the four authors of the article also work for Bloom; the French NGO that engaged in a fierce anti-pulse campaign. 

Wageninen, University and Research went as far to say “The article makes far-reaching statements about the subsidies that have been spent on pulse fishing and about the research that has been carried out.” 

Wageningen’s Marloes Kraan and her colleagues wrote in the journal ‘Marine Policy’ that these statements are discussed and refuted as scientifically flawed. The fact that scientists working at an NGO write an article is not a problem in itself if the boundaries between the different roles are clear and if there is critical reflection on the way in which they perform, interpret and communicate scientific analyzes.

“Three out of four authors of this article work for Bloom, the French NGO that successfully campaigned a fierce anti-pulse campaign based on lies and suggestive frames. The European Parliament has failed to see through this deception at the expense of sustainability in fisheries, which is very regrettable.” Visserij.nl

 “That has not happened with this article” argues Kraan.

The Wageningen researchers dispute all other claims and believe that electric pulse fishing would make fishing more sustainable but this fails to take account of research from Bloom and other NGOs that clearly showed the method as damaging benthic species and causing irreparable damage to fishing such as breaking the spinal cord. 

This method of fishing was heavily criticised by Belgium, French and British fishers, and led to concerns amongst those fishing in the North Sea that irrecoverable damage would be caused to fishing grounds and fish stocks.

Another concern throughout the EU was the manner in which the Dutch fishing companies equipped their fleet of electric pulsors using funding and derogations for research.

In January this year, the Bloom Association claimed that the licences had been delivered illegally in 2010 as they were granted in order to carry out research that never took place.

Adding to a first round of 42 exemptions that were withdrawn on the 1 June 2019, the Netherlands now only possess 22 exemptions out of the 84 delivered initially and the Dutch were still violating the law, as only a maximum of 5% of the beam trawl fleet of each country are allowed to continue electric fishing until the research derogation expires in mid-2021

In that statement Bloom said “If the Netherlands respected the Regulation, they would only have 15 licences, not 22.”

In April this year, The Fishing Daily revealed that a German registered beam trawler had been converted by a Dutch fishing company to carry a second hand electric pulse fishing system.

The Dutch lobby in support of electric pulse fishing insist that pulse fishing is more fuel economical over traditional beam trawling and that it also causes less damage to the sea floor. 

They contend that the EU representatives who voted against the electric pulse fishing did not examine the scientific data presented to them and they were wrong for dismissing the innovative fishing method based on flawed and biased research by Bloom and other NGOs.

Wageningen co-author and professor of environmental policy , Simon Bush was more diplomatic about the discussion, saying he believed that a better system for deciding issues like future innovations in fishing needed to be put in place.

He said “If we want to prevent a new battle like the pulse in future promising innovations, we need to explore how we can shape a process of co-creation at European level between the fishing industry, policymakers, NGOs supported by science.

“We are faced with the important question of how we want to deal with fishing innovations within the EU in the future. What do we want our fisheries to look like in the future? What role does scientific knowledge play in shaping political decisions?” says Professor Bush

“These are societal questions that require knowledge from various actors and stakeholders. It is now important to think at European level about designing such a process.”

Dutch pulsers still sore over losing fight for electric pulse fishing

by editor time to read: 7 min