Pulse fishing has been the subject of a concerted campaign in the mainstream media and there are upcoming events at the
European Parliament ahead of a crucial vote due to take place later this month. Dutch pulse fishermen are adamant that their fisheries have been portrayed in the worst possible light by NGOs –
and have hit back at the flood of misinformation and fake news.
‘What we are looking for is a continuation of research into pulse fishing so that a balanced judgement can be made on the basis of scientific facts,’ said Pim Visser of Dutch fishermen’s
organisation VisNed. ‘We’re absolutely not looking for pulse fishing to be opened up everywhere.’
He dismissed the claims made by Bloom and LIFE Platform against pulse fishing as ‘so much nonsense,’ citing the example Bloom’s claim of the €5.7 million subsidy to support pulse fishing.
‘This is an absolutely ridiculous figure, and it’s a number they made up by themselves. They claim that the Dutch government is not properly transparent so they had to estimate – and came up with
this imaginary figure. It’s fake news. That’s the only way you can describe it.’
He said that in 2009 in the development phase, four vessels were equipped with experimental gear, with each boat’s owners investing half a million Euros of their own resources in this.
‘Each was helped with €170,000 to facilitate further development, which they did,’ he said.
‘Apart from this, no national or European public funds have been used to subsidise investment in pulse fishing for the private sector. €3.80 million of the Dutch EMFF budget has been committed to
two research projects about pulse fisheries. The first project is an impact assessment to develop the fundamental knowledge on the effects of electricity on marine organisms and the benthic
ecosystem required to assess the ecological consequences of this new fishing method. The second aims to study the selectivity gain that pulse technology can have in the shrimp fishing industry.
The main value of pulse technology in the shrimp fishing industry is to reduce by-catches,’ he said, and added that all this information is publicly available, with no need to make up any new
According to Pim Visser, there are currently Dutch 84 pulse fishing licences, of which 75 are active and the others are either dormant or within the brown shrimp fishery. In addition there are a
handful of UK and German pulse fishing licences, of which around half are in use.
He points out that there has been a massive reduction in fishing effort already, with half of the Dutch fishing fleet scrapped, while the remainder of the fleet’s target species are now all
fished at MSY level or better.
‘There’s no proof that the Commission’s 2006 decision (to increase pulse licences) is creating large scale environmental and social damage. On the contrary, fishing is at sustainable level; fuel
consumption is 50% down and fishing communities are thriving,’ Pim Visser said and added that they are keenly aware of the problems facing French, Belgian and English fishermen.
‘That’s why we are reaching out to them to agree voluntary separation schemes, and to find out whether their hardships are caused by the Dutch fishing activities. We have met fishermen from
England and agreed that areas that were previously not fished will not be fished from now on by the pulse trawlers. So there will be no fishing on the Falls area, and we are now having the same
discussion with the Lowestoft fishermen to leave certain areas unfished,’ he said.
‘Bloom has really picked a fight here. They have persuaded French supermarkets to refuse to sell soles caught by pulse beamers and last week a question was raised why supermarkets should refuse
to buy these high quality fish caught with a low environmental impact – and nobody was able to make a coherent response,’ he said, commenting that the impasse over pulse fishing has exact
parallels with the Bloom campaign against deep water fishing.
‘Bloom and others are using harsh words and claim the credibility of the European Commission is at stake. For our part, we doubt the credibility of assumptions and allegations which are not
factual and which are not backed by independent science,’ Pim Visser said.
‘The fishermen who are siding with Bloom on this have made a deal with the devil. Bloom’s next target will be to end all bottom trawling.’