Pulse ban hits faith in European policymaking

Pulse ban hits faith in European policymaking Following the pulse ban, Dutch fishermen and their organisations are disappointment and disillusioned by European policymaking

The European Parliament voted for a ban on pulse fishing on the 16th of April 2019, a move that definitively brings an end to this controversial method of fishing that has been in development for two decades, and which has become a central part of the Dutch fleet’s fishing patterns.

According to Dutch fishing industry federation VisNed, the ban on pulse fishing in effect means that more than 80 family-owned businesses are at risk, some of which supporting eight or nine families.

“Pulse fishing, a technique which has been developed in close co-operation with research institutes such as Wageningen University and ICES, is now discarded together with years of intensive research and innovation,” VisNed’s spokesman said.

“This is a huge blow for primarily the Dutch fishing industry, but foremost, a huge blow for the environment as this method reduces the amount of bycatch by 50%, uses up to 50% less fuel and decreases contact with the seabed by 20%.”

The ban on pulse fishing is included in the amended set of Technical Measures under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), which according to the European Commission, aims to ensure that fishing and aquaculture are environmentally, economically and socially sustainable.

VisNed states that pulse fishing was developed in reaction to societal concerns about impact on the seabed, selectivity and the ambition to decrease fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. “Despite the scientifically proven positive effects all this, pulse fishing will be banned completely from the 1st July 2021 onwards, and in the transition period until 2021 only part of the fleet will be allowed to continue.”

The ban is not only a problem for the fishermen using this technique, each of which invested up to €500.000 in gear and technical adjustments to their vessels, but switching back to traditional gears will lead to increasing fuel costs, pulse gear loses its value and the vessels have to be adjusted and refitted once more for traditional beam trawling, according to VisNed.

“The increase in costs and decrease in revenues will be felt throughout the industry, as a relatively small number of companies form the financial driver for activities ashore, such as processing companies, fish auctions and education. Furthermore, the decrease in revenues means a decrease in wages, which will likely lead to a decrease in recruitment and willingness to take over the family-owned businesses.”

VisNed’s position is that taking into account the CFP’s threefold sustainability aims, pulse fishing ticks all the boxes.

“This is why fishermen and their organisations are disappointment and disillusioned by the policymaking system. The ecological and financial setbacks are significant, but we are also very concerned about the demotivation that we encounter regarding the willingness to innovate and invest in scientific collaboration at this point,” said VisNed’s director Pim Visser.

“NGO’s encouraged the transition to pulse fishing and were very positive about the technique the past decade, in response to the first positive scientific results. The anti-pulse lobby has been led mostly by a French NGO called Bloom, which lied about the effects of pulse fishing and openly stated that they have no scientific research backing up their claims,” he said.

“Despite their deceitful campaign, the NGO’s who supported us a say they still do, have silently witnessed the public slaughter of the fishing technique. Fishermen feel betrayed by the system, by NGO’s and by politicians, who have disregarded the facts in spite of the coastal communities and natural environment they claim to cherish,” he said.

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