A German beam trawler has become the latest fishing vessel to convert to the electric-pulse fishing system even though the EU has effectively banned the system.
The 21.6 metre ‘Butendiek’ BRA 2, left the port of Den Helder in the Netherlands and is currently fishing on North Sea grounds located north-west of Dutch port.
In February last year, electric-pulse fishing was banned by the European Union but the German fishing vessel reportedly travelled to Den Helder where it was fitted with “pulse system and equipment secondhand from Goereese and Urker colleagues “.
At the time of the ban, French Agriculture Minister, Didier Guillaume hailed the deal on technical measures, saying that the new regulation, encouraged by France, put an end to the current experimentation of pulse trawling which was deemed too loose and insufficiently regulated.
Fishing using electric-pulse methods was officially banned in 1998 but a system of derogations was set up in 2006, which allowed the practice to continue. Dutch electric pulse fishing vessels have been experimenting with electric-pulse fishing since 2011 on a large scale and the Netherlands Fishing association said that an EU ban would not be science-based and hamper innovation in the the fishing sector.
Opponents to this method of fishing stressed that the technique has negative effects on juveniles and eggs and also damages marine wildlife. Fish caught by electric-pulse also showed signs of flesh damage and the impact on benthic species would be substantial leading to other fish species being widely affected.
Whilst electric pulse fishing was banned over a year ago, there was a transition period guide until July 2021 which Dutch cutters have been taking advantage of.
Regulation stated that “new licence shall not be granted to any vessel during this period” but German fishing vessel ‘Butendiek’ has used a late exemption which has allowed it to be rigged for electric pulse fishing and will now fish as an electric-pulse trawler until the end of July 2021.
Of the exemption skipper of the ‘Butendiek’, Gerrit Kraak explains, “Every Member State is allowed to pulse with 5 percent of their North Sea flatfish fleet until next summer. Germany had not yet filled that 5 percent. Now we do, because with the BRA 2 we were the last with a permit from the BLE (The Federal Office of Agriculture and Food in Germany)”
Electric pulse fishing has not been without its controversy during the negotiation and in 2018 and 2019, a collection of NGOs and fishing associations, led by French group Bloom, campaigned against electric-pulse fishing and its exponents. They asked the European Anti-Fraud office to investigate whether the Netherlands committed fraud in its promotion of pulse fishing by granting a substantial amount of public funds to companies involved during the experimentation process.