Wednesday, 22 November 2017

EU technical measures vote ‘opportunity to prove pulse fishing’s sustainability’

EU approval for the use of pulse fishing has not gone down well with many NGOs it seems. The boats cite:
  • reduced fuel consumption by 46% ✔
  • reduced discards by 50% ✔
  • reduced damage to the sea bed 20% less area fished ✔
  • reduced wear and tear on the boat working much lighter gear ✔
  • improved efficiency ✔
  • improved profits ✔
You can see why 84 Dutch boats won't want to give up those kinds of benefits so easily - especially given the investment they have made!

The European Parliament's fisheries committee has proposed a number of new rules -- still yet to be finalized -- which have angered NGOs and given hope to Dutch pulse fishermen.

Among some 700 amendments up for discussion in the "technical measures" vote on Nov. 21 were those dictating the future of the Netherlands' pulse fishing industry.

"The decision of the fisheries committee to continue the current scientific research on pulse fishing is an important step forward to prove it’s sustainability," Dutch Fisheries Association manager, Derk Berends, told Undercurrent News.

"It’s an opportunity for all NGOs and fishermen that are questioning this innovative technique to get all the answers they need."

The method has many advantages to more traditional techniques like beam trawling, such as 46% less fuel consumption, 50% less discards, and 20% less area fished, he said.

"But there are also many questions that need answers and therefore the research needs to go on."

The decision on pulse fishing was just one part of the technical measures regulation which has to be adopted in the European Parliament later this year or the beginning of next year, he added. "After a trialogue between the parliament, European Council and European Commission, the new regulation technical measures -- including pulse fishing -- should come into force next year."

In the Netherlands, 84 vessels use a pulse rig on the basis of an exemption from a ban on the gear (active across the rest of the EU). About three-quarters of these exemptions are linked to large-scale European research. This research, in which Dutch pulse fishermen are actively participating, will be completed in mid-2019, said the Dutch Fisheries Association.

Ending the work of the pulse harness would have "disastrous consequences for the Dutch fleet", said Johan Nooitgedagt, chairman of the Dutch Fishermen's Union. "Dutch fishermen have made major investments in the pulse gear. Not only did the fishermen invest millions of euros in the pulse gear, they also took the time to learn how to innovate with the new gear and to participate in countless researches."

NGO ClientEarth, meanwhile, viewed the new fishing proposals as a whole as "a huge blow to sustainable fishing in the EU", because of their total lack of concrete targets and legal deadlines.

It believes this affects not only the wider marine environment, but also threatens juvenile fish and spawning grounds, meaning future fish stocks might be jeopardized.

Members of the fisheries committee have "undermined EU environmental protection" by voting against coherence with other environmental laws like the Birds and Habitats Directives, and international nature protection agreements, it said.

"They also changed established sustainability rules without scientific justification, and introduced exceptions for the Mediterranean despite the fact that it is already heavily overfished."

According to the Express, British European parliament members had wanted to ban pulse fishing, which they say is decimating stocks in UK waters.

'Limitless' expansion?

The main amendment voted in at this stage, according to France's Bloom Association, approves the "possible limitless commercial expansion" of electric pulse fishing in Europe, should research fail to demonstrate after four years “direct or cumulative negative impacts on marine habitats”.

Bloom fears the wording of the amendment opens a loophole to allow pulse fishing to continue while the debate over sustainability continues.

“This semantic shift is insane,” said Claire Nouvian, chair of Paris-based Bloom. "Just when nations are supposed to 'end destructive fishing gears by 2020'...Europe goes against the world trend to prohibit electric fishing."

The one bright spot for both Bloom and ClientEarth was that a plenary vote is still required, and offers the chance for the European Parliament to "redeem itself".

Additionally, in the North Sea, a 5% limit on the number of vessels which can carry pulse fishing equipment has been removed, and the Dutch can now equip 100% of their fleet with electric trawls, according to Bloom.

Full story courtesy of Neil Ramsden writing for UndercurrentNews
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