Warning of electric pulse fishing’s ‘disastrous’ effects

Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada

The Irish Wildlife Trust, along with other European groups, has written to the European Commission warning of the “disastrous” consequences if it allows “electric pulse” fishing.

The technique involves equipping fishing nets with electrodes which send an electric current through the seabed. This causes a muscular convulsion in fish which forces them out of the seabed and into the net.

Electric pulse fishing has been banned in Europe since 1998 but a decision by the European Commission and Council at the end of 2006 has authorised it via certain exemptions. In November, the EU Fisheries Committee voted to allow electric pulse fishing by a small percentage of ships on a trial basis and under strict conditions.

The technique was pioneered by the Dutch in the early 1990s and they remain its biggest advocates, claiming it allows trawlers to catch more of their target species in better condition, causing less damage to the seabed than traditional trawling.

However, environmental organisations dispute this, calling the technique “the marine equivalent of fracking” and pointing out that Europe is the only place in the world to allow the use of pulse fishing.

Now, in response to November’s vote, a European-wide group of NGOs and fishing organisations has written to the European Commission calling for the original 2006 decision of the European Commission and Council to be revoked. It also outlined what it says was the questionable “morality” of this decision.

The organisations point out that the decision was taken against scientific advice and under the pressure of Dutch fishing lobbies.

“This dubious 2006 decision has had serious consequences for both marine ecosystems and humans,” said the group. “Not only is the seabed impacted by huge industrial nets, but marine organisms are brutalised — electrocution causes fracture of the spine, bruising, and burns.”

Following the vote last month, Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada said: “We simply don’t know the long-term effects it will have on stocks or the environment. All we have are anecdotal, and often conflicting reports from various proponents from the industrial sector, many who have vested interests in the practice.

It would be highly irresponsible at the best of times to allow any such practice to go ahead unfettered without first thoroughly researching it, but with Brexit posing the biggest threat to our fishing industry in history, we have to be more protective of Irish waters than ever.”


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