Campaigners urge electrical pulse fishing ban

Campaign groups urge ban on electrical pulse fishing
© Ed Bierman

Campaign groups have urged the EU to reinstate a ban on electrical pulse fishing amid concerns about overfishing, ahead of a vote later this month.

Groups including The Black Fish, Low Impact Fishers of Europe and Bloom, which represent small-scale fishing fleets around Europe, have condemned the practice of electrical pulse fishing in a letter to MEPs, the Guardian reports. Many fishing vessels use devices attached to nets which deliver electric pulses, disturbing marine environments and causing fish to swim into their nets, a practice which the campaigners say is destructive.

The practice was initially banned in 1998 across Europe, because of concerns about the environmental impact and also the potential harm to fish populations, but this ban was withdrawn in 2006. A vote later this month will decide whether to continue allowing the method, or to reinstate the prohibition on electric pulse fishing.

What concerns have the campaign groups expressed?

Molly Scott Cato, an MEP from the UK’s Green Party, told the Guardian that while electric pulse fishing might have a lower environmental impact than other methods, it is still harmful, and that methods which cause less disturbance to habitats should be developed and utilised.

She said: “While the use of electrical disturbance might reduce the damage caused to seabed habitats through heavy beam trawling, it cannot be justified to replace one damaging fishing technology with another. The impact on fish and other marine wildlife of pulse fishing is unclear, and it thus also appears to violate the precautionary principle.”

The groups which signed the letter have also expressed concern that the effectiveness of the method has led to intensified fishing in certain areas, and the effects of this are not yet clear. However, other groups have opposed this criticism, arguing that trawling the bottom of the seabed causes more disturbance to marine environments and that electrical pulses are a more eco-friendly alternative. The environmental impact of electrical pulses, including how many of Europe’s fishing boats employ it, has not been fully investigated.

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