Stop electric fishing. The sea thanks Europe

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Good news comes that stops electric fishing. With 571 votes in favor of the stop and 60 against, on Tuesday, April 16, the European Parliament approved the the agreement on the “Technical Measures” regulation, which includes electric fishing. Thus, a ban on this highly destructive fishery will be implemented as of July 1, 2021. Among those involved in this victory is Bloom, a French nonprofit dedicated to the oceans and those who live off them. Their mission is to work for the common good by creating a sustainable pact between man and the sea.

What is electric fishing?

Electric fishing is a technique that uses powerful discharges of current from electrodes towed close to the seabed. This method has raised much controversy because its marine impact has not been scientifically evaluated. The technique was moving forward on a large scale in Dutch fisheries.

Electrical discharges force fish and small fish such as shellfish and other species to break away from the seafloor and align with the created water column. This allows them to be easily caught with a trawl net. This method has been adopted mainly by Dutch fishermen in the southern North Sea and English Channel allowing them to increase catches of sole, their main target species.

It starts in 2021, but the benefits start now

We do not have to wait that long to see the benefits of this initiative already. Between the publication of the regulation in the Official Gazette within a few weeks, and July 1, 2021, the number of vessels authorized for this type of fishing will be drastically reduced: from 84 today (all Dutch) to about ten.

In addition, each individual member state will be able to prevent electric fishing in its coastal zone up to 12 nautical miles right away. In France, MP Erwan Balanant (Modem). Submitted a bill to that effect, supported by 125 other deputies from all sides of the political spectrum to signify how the fate of the sea no longer has a reference color but has become of general interest. Also Belgian MEP Tom Vandenkendelaere (EPP) plans to ban electric fishing in his country’s waters. While in the Netherlands, C-LIFE’s artisanal fishermen are pushing in the same direction, unheeded, however, by the country’s government, which favors electric fishing boats.

We want the money back!

But it is not enough. The College of Commissioners is still required to open an infringement procedure against the Netherlands regarding the many illegal exemptions granted. Bloom (an association founded in 2005 that works to safeguard the oceans and advocate for ecologically and humanely sustainable fisheries) and very active in supporting the campaign against this type of fishing industry is also asking citizens to be reimbursed for the 21.5 million in grants that enabled the development of electric fishing.

In the age of misinformation, truth has triumphed, and it will continue to prevail in the face of the blatant lies of the Dutch industry that attempted to discredit Bloom and our arguments, even though they were well founded. Bloom frequently faces false accusations, but the scientific rigor of our research and the information we disseminate is unassailable. We always respond calmly, albeit sometimes in an urgent situation, to these fallacious accusations” says Frédéric Le Manach, Bloom’s scientific director.

David can defeat Goliath

In attacking electric fishing, Bloom had to contend with a particularly powerful and influential industry.

We have brought to light many malfunctions of our institutions:


the allocation of illegal licenses


,


the lies of the Commission


regarding the first waivers granted,


the illegal subsidies


To fund the development of this technique. Other actors contributed to the success of our campaign, most notably a Dutch journalist who demonstrated


the absolute absence of scientific research


– although it was the pretext advanced to obtain the licenses
, summarizes Laetitia Bisiaux, researcher for Bloom.

“When we began our campaign by filing a complaint against the Netherlands in early October 2017, victory was far from a foregone conclusion. The European Commission proposed allowing electric fishing in the North Sea, which would have led to the development of this destructive method in all European waters. Our goal was a total and definitive ban. Constant effort, and in the end we won,” recalls Sabine Rosset, director of Bloom.

Unity is strength

After the first denunciation of illegal licenses, then the denunciation of artisanal fishermen in the Hauts-de-France. There was no shortage of support from Italian, Belgian, British, Dutch and Spanish artisanal fishermen. In addition, the Association of Fishmongers of France, large retailers (Intermarché group, Biocoop, Carrefour and Méricq), chefs from the Relais & Châteaux circuit, the Collège Culinaire de France and some chefs from the Euro-Toques association supported the campaign by refusing supplies of fish obtained by electric fishing and raising awareness of the catastrophic effects of this fishing technique.

Finally, winning the battle would have been impossible without the citizens who have mobilized en masse on several occasions, signing our petitions and inviting Europe’s elected representatives through the platforms Bloom has made available to them.

Photo by Steinar Engeland

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