Protest erupts in Calais over pulse fishing

French fishermen protest electric pulse fishing © David B. Gleason
© David B. Gleason

Fishermen in the French ports of Calais and Boulogne have launched a protest against electric pulse fishing.

The fishermen are protesting the practice – which uses electrified nets to stun fish, making them easier to catch – arguing that it is depleting the numbers of fish in French waters, and causing them to lose money.

Protestors have used a flotilla of small fishing boats to block ferries entering or leaving from Calais. In Boulogne, they set fire to pallets and stacks of tyres to block road traffic, and two boats were used to block an area of the port frequented by Dutch boats. Electric pulse fishing is mainly used by Dutch trawlers, who have argued that the method is less disruptive to the environment than others.

However, this argument has proved controversial, and some campaign groups lobbied for a ban on electric pulse fishing earlier this month.

The English port of Dover, which is a major transport link to Calais, was also affected, with some ferry operators suspending scheduled services in response to the blockade.

How have the authorities responded?

According to the BBC, Stéphane Pinto, vice president of the regional fisheries committee, said that the fisherman felt abandoned and have suffered significant financial losses through the use of pulse fishing.

Meanwhile a spokesperson for the port of Calais said that officials are in talks with the fishermen. Reports suggest that some progress has been made, with the protestors now allowing one ferry to leave for England per hour, but no further details have been released.

In a statement, Janette Bell of P&O Ferries, called on French authorities to clear the blockade at once and reopen Calais to the company’s boats.

What is electric pulse fishing?

A ban on the electric pulse fishing was recently agreed by the European Parliament, but the law has yet to come into effect. Negotiations between the parliament, the European Commission and EU member states will soon take place to agree new regulations on the practice, but it will remain in use in the meantime.

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