17 June 2018
BLOOM obtains details on the ICES scientific advice process
17 June 2018
On 30 May 2018, the international scientific body ‘ICES’ (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea) responded publicly to the ‘special request’ of the Dutch government to know whether electric trawling (scraping the seafloor with nets and electrodes) was better or worse than beam trawling (scraping the seafloor with chains).
This absurd question — equivalent to asking “is plague better than cholera?” — gave the opportunity to the Dutch fishing industry and its ardent defenders, which include prominent Dutch politicians, to conclude that electric trawling was sustainable.
> Read our political and scientific analysis of the ICES scientific opinion, released on 30 May 2018 in response to the special request by the Netherlands to compare electric trawling to traditional beam trawling.
According to BLOOM, this document from ICES is extremely shocking because limited and short-sighted scientific productions are conspicuously instrumentalized to serve political objectives. This contradicts the very mission of ICES. BLOOM has therefore sent a letter to ICES on 4 June 2018, to request full transparency on the drafting process that led to the production of such a weak and politically-driven document.
ICES Head of Advisory Support, Dr. Lotte Worsøe Clausen, sent us a response on 5 June 2018. It indicates that the Netherlands requested this scientific advice in February 2018, i.e. just after the vote of the European Parliament in favor of a full and definitive ban on this destructive fishing gear. Details were also provided on the advisory process and on who participated to the various meetings leading to this scientific advice. In this letter, ICES further argued that it had strictly adhered to the rules guaranteeing its scientific objectivity and that they do not share our concerns. We replied on 7 June 2018 by formally requesting access to the technical minutes of two important meetings: the advice drafting group (ADGPulse) and ICES Advisory Committee web-conference to approve the advice (WCPulse).
DR. Lotte Worsøe Clausen answered our requests on 13 June 2018. The technical minutes enable to better understand the advisory process. it shows that there were intense disagreements between ACOM participants and that several of our critics have been raised during the ACOM meeting, even if not accounted for in the final version. It was even suggested that the advice drafting group be reorganized and the date of the release be postponed, which was rejected due notably to “time limitations” (p8). This statement clearly shows that the timing of the release was more important than the quality of the advice. It opens an important question: was the process rushed so the advice could be used in Trilogue negotiations in june 2018? This would demonstrate a political instrumentalization of the ICES advisory process.
We are stil analyzing the report and will produce a detailed analysis of the ICES advisory process. Meanwhile, we make these reports publicly available so that scientists and citizens can read them and make their own judgement on this advice.