Seas-At-Risk organisation evaluates new fishing proposals, including electric pulse fishing

Seas-At-Risk press release, 21st November 2017: The European Parliament Fisheries Committee [has taken a decision which] seriously weakens marine environmental legislation.

The European Parliament Fisheries Committee today [21st November] voted on a proposal that will revise legislation on the protection of fisheries resources and marine ecosystems. The proposal merges more than 30 existing regulations and directives, all aimed at minimising the impacts of fishing on ecosystems.

However, the proposal seriously weakens or deletes several existing measures.

Björn Stockhausen, Fisheries Policy Officer at Seas At Risk said: “It is a disgrace that the Fisheries Committee decided to go back to the dark ages of poor environmental protection, weakening and deleting existing environmental legislation that has in some cases protected juvenile fish and habitats for decades. They should know better than deleting those measures, as it will reduce the ability of ecosystems to support thriving fish stocks, undermining the sustainability of their exploitation.”

The adopted proposal includes the following key changes or deletions of existing environmental provisions:

  • The report seriously weakens the ambition of environmental legislation, by introducing weaker language in many areas, asking to ‘contribute to’ achieving certain objectives instead of ‘ensuring’ that they are achieved.
  • It also fails to set coherent rules to tackle bycatchBycatch The part of a fishery catch that is not a legal target of the fishery. Bycatch may be retained and landed but is usually discarded (released or returned to the sea, dead or alive). Examples: sea turtles caught in a longline fishery, sharks caught while fishing for swordfish, small or undersize red snapper caught when fishing for larger red snapper, and target species caught after a quota or limit has been reached. of marine mammals and seabirds across EU sea basins.
  • The prohibition on the use of electric pulse fishing has been lifted for the North Sea, now allowing for an unlimited amount of vessels to use this gear, even though the environmental impact of this fishery is hotly debated and still needs to be assessed by independent scientific bodies.
  • The objective of reducing catches of juvenile fish, to ensure they can reproduce and contribute to the fish stock before being caught, has been seriously weakened and makes any quantifiable reduction in the coming years questionable.  In absence of a quantifiable target that is valid for all EU
    fisheries, it will now be up to regional groups of Member States to come up with regional joint recommendations in order to achieve reductions.


The next step in the process will be a debate of this adopted proposal of the Fisheries Committee in a plenary parliamentary session to establish the final position of the European Parliament.

An attempt to skip this step and go straight into negotiations with the Council over the final legislation did not succeed. This still gives the chance to the majority of parliamentarians to adjust the position of the Parliament and ensure that existing legislation to minimise the impacts of fishing on ecosystems will not be weakened.


Source: Seas-At-Risk press release, 21st November 2017. For further details, see


Marinet observes: The first point that has to be made regarding electric pulse trawling is that bottom trawling, whether electrified or not, is an extraordinarily damaging fishing technique. It effectively ploughs the seabed in order to force fish living there into its nets whilst, at the same time, killing nearly all other creatures living there. It has been condemned for this reason since its first use.

Electric pulse bottom trawling now adds an additional dimension. It electrifies the process, thus stunning and shocking the bottom dwelling fish into the net. It is attractive to trawlermen because electrification reduces the weight of the beam trawl equipment, thus producing a more fuel-efficient fishing trip, and it enables the trawler to sail closer to the coast, thus capturing fish hitherto unavailable. Thus there are serious commercial advantages to this technique.

However the adverse environmental consequences and magnified and widened.

Firstly: the whole fishing process becomes more “efficient” enabling more fish to be caught, especially from the previously inaccessible shallow spawning areas in coastal waters. Thus the long-term integrity of the stock is damaged.

Secondly: fish eggs, larvae and other tiny marine creatures which would have been unaffected by a conventional trawl are now electrified, and very likely killed.

Thirdly: large bottom dwelling fish which do not actually bury them selves in the seabed as do sole and plaice e.g. cod, suffer a shattering of their backbone due to the electric shock. Hence they too are killed as a by-product, almost incidentally so to speak.

Fourthly: conventional bottom trawling tends to leave a wasteland in the wake of the trawl. This characteristic is now intensified, and mortality of species appears to be virtually total.

Certainly there are documented economic advantages from the electrification of bottom trawling. Yet there has been no commensurate documented evaluation of the environmental and ecological consequences of this technological development of the trawling technique — despite the EU licensing the practice so far on an “experimental and research” basis.

Marinet has long argued for better husbandry of our wild fish stocks, and has directed responsibility for this towards both government and the large fishing companies.

Now this duo of government and commercial interests appear on the brink of reneging further on the delivery of their ecological responsibility.

Is there any way to stop this further descent into madness, the outcome of which must logically be a catastrophe for our seas?


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