On Tuesday January 16th a majority of the 750 members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg voted for a moratorium on the pulse fishing gear in Europe. ‘A terrible outcome,’ according to Durk van Tuinen from the Dutch Fishermen’s Association who was present at the crucial vote in France, together with representatives from the Dutch fisheries organisation VisNed and the Dutch fisheries municipalities. ‘This outcome has enormous consequences for many family businesses in the fisheries sector,’ says Pim Visser from VisNed.
Sustainable innovation halted
‘It is now up to the European Commission, the European Council and the European Parliament, in a so-called trilogue, to straighten up this mistake,’ says Van Tuinen. When the outcome of the vote in the European Parliament is adopted during the trilogue, the fisheries organisations see no future for this way of fishing. ‘The sustainability improvements that the Dutch trawler fleet has realised during the past decennium, will be annulled,’ according to Visser. ‘During the past weeks, we received an increasing number of signals that the vote would shift in this direction, but we did not expect a total ban.’ VisNed and the Dutch Fishermen’s Organisation have been working hard to reach solutions with opponents of pulse fishing. However, unjustified claims coming from France about fraud and deceit, have won from objective scientific research.
Science losing from emotion
Scientific research studying the effects of pulse fishing have shown promising results on the reduction of unwanted bycatch, fuel consumption and reduced impact of the seabed. The decision, made by the majority of the members of the European Parliament, is therefore completely incomprehensible according to the fisheries organisations. ‘The decision has been taken in spite of all the scientific evidence pointing in the other direction. The members of the European Parliament have mainly paid attention to the fake news that was disseminated by extremist French action groups such as ‘the Dutch contribute to overfishing’ and ‘pulse fishermen electrocute the fish’. Such claims are complete nonsense,’ according to Visser and van Tuinen. ‘We have done our outmost best to provide the European parliamentarians with information about the scientific evidence’.
The consequences of the vote in the European Parliament looks bad for the Dutch fisheries sector in general. ‘Every pulse fishermen has invested tonnes in this innovative fishing gear. Switching back to the old gear is a financial noose for many fisheries companies, especially because fuel consumption was halved with the use of the pulse gear. “The fishermen and their families now have to face the bill,” according to Van Tuinen. “We had expected that reasonable and educated people would not allow this to happen.” The European Parliament will negotiate about this outcome with the European Commission and the European Council. ‘The European Commission is in favour of the pulse gear and will of course aim for the continuation of the scientific research on pulse fishing. Emotions shouldn’t win from scientific results in a case like this,’ says Visser.