European Parliament vote in favour of banning electric pulse fishing in European waters

Published by Niall Sargent on

January 16th, 2017

The European Parliament voted today to ban the controversial practice of electric pulse fishing in European waters.

Earlier today, MEPs voted 402 to 232 in favour of prohibiting electric pulse fishing. The practice involves dragging an electrified net across the sea floor which stuns marine species in its path.

MEPs from the Parliament’s Fisheries Committee will now begin talks with the Council on the final wording of the legislation.

In 1998, the EU banned the use of fishing methods involving explosives, poison or electric current in fishing. However, in 2006, the Commission put forward a proposal to grant Member States derogations to practice electric fishing, which was quickly adopted by the EU Council.

Programme Director of marine conservation group Our Fish, Rebecca Hubbard, said that the vote was a “huge win” for European seas, low impact fishers and the public in general.

She added: “Instead of developing another industrial fishery with high exploitation capacity, EU governments must get back to the urgent job of ending overfishing, and deliver truly sustainable fisheries management that benefits our marine ecosystems and coastal fishing communities.”

Our Fish was one of 17 NGOs and low impact fisher groups that penned a letter to the Commissioner for  Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, last week calling for the withdrawal of all proposals in support of electric fishing.

MEPs will vote tomorrow on a European Commission proposal to allow for electric pulse fishing to become a fully legal practice

According to the letter, the decision went against the recommendation of the EU’s Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) in a 2006 working paper. In the report, STECF urged cautioned on the use of electric pulse fishing due to the unknown impacts on the marine ecosystem.

“Taken into account in particular the unknown effect of pulse trawl fisheries on non-target species and the potential impact on vertebrates and invertebrate species, STECF concludes that although the development of this technology should not be halted, there are a number of issues that need to be resolved before any derogation can be granted,” the report states.

‘Brutal’ Practise

According to the Irish Wildlife Trust, the practice is “as brutal as it sounds” and has also contacted Irish MEPs urging them to vote in favour of reinstating the original blanket ban.

“Proponents defend the electrocution of sea life by saying it is less harmful than the dredging practices currently carried out. This is like promoting cholera because it is better than a dose of the plague,” the group said in a statement.

A group spokesperson told The Green News that they are confident the majority of Irish MEPs will vote in favour of banning the practice.

Impact of electric fishing

According to BLOOM, a marine conservation NGO, there are numerous negative socio-economic and environmental impacts of electric fishing.

According to the group, the electric current used causes violent convulsions in fish, leaving them with fractured spines or internal bleeding after the electric shock.

“This indiscriminate fishing method enables the fishing industry to catch fish more easily, and to save on fuel, but at the cost of huge destruction to marine ecosystems, and to small-scale fisheries,” a BLOOM statement continues.

This fishing method is also known to be wasteful due to the non-selective nature of the practice and is estimated to generate a discard rate of between 50 and 70 per cent, according to the NGO letter.

China moved to ban the practice in 2006 due to the impact on biodiversity, while Hong Kong outlawed electric fishing back in 1998 due to its “long-term deleterious effect” on fisheries and the marine ecosystem.

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London