EU parliament to decide future of pulse fishing

fishing fisheries

Europe’s parliament will vote on Tuesday on the controversial issue of electric pulse fishing, in a debate that could decide the future of the fishing method.

The debate is crucial for the UK, despite Brexit, because the UK’s fleets have yet to decide whether to lobby the government post-Brexit for an expansion in pulse fishing. Tuesday’s debate and vote will give an indication of both current scientific advice on the issue, and the strength of public opinion.

But while several groups representing small-scale fishing fleets in the EU are lobbying for a previous ban on the method to be reinstated, the European commission is understood to be concerned that the controversy could derail other important reforms in the fisheries package before the parliament. This may encourage some MEPs to vote to allow the practice to continue.

Pulse fishing is claimed by many conservationists to be a cruel and destructive, as well as unnecessary, method of fishing. However, others see it as a more humane alternative to the destructive practices of beam trawling, in which a heavy metal bar is dragged across the sea floor.

Fishing Policy

Pulse fishing sends a current of electricity through sections of the seabed, disturbing the fish and propelling some of them into the net, but beam trawling can rip up the seabed along with fish habitats.

The vote will have little immediate impact on the UK, because pulse fishing is little used here, and because after Brexit ministers are determined to craft a separate national fishing policy. But the UK’s fleets are watching the debate closely, because after Brexit they and the government could choose either to employ the method more widely, or to ban it in British waters.

This week, the UK’s fleets will also announce an agreement with the Netherlands, which operates by far the greatest number of pulse fishing vessels in Europe, to restrict the practice over areas deemed sensitive. These include fishing grounds near the Thames estuary.

The Netherlands has at least 84 and possibly close to 100 pulse fishing vessels, in contrast to the 12 that have so far been licensed in the UK. Some of the vessels officially registered in the UK and other EU countries are believed to be financed and operated by Dutch owners. The Netherlands was the main beneficiary of a 2006 decision by the European Union to allow pulse fishing, a reversal of its 1998 ban of the practice.

Read the full article at The Guardian.

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