New study: electric fishing destroys the environment

As the Netherlands just challenged the new EU regulation that prohibits electric fishing at the European Court of Justice, the Journal de l’Environment reveals a crucial and explosive report that demonstrates the colossal impact of electric fishing on marine ecosystems.

The first worthy study

The study — carried out by CEFAS[1] — was eagerly awaited by BLOOM and many small-scale fishers around the North Sea, as this study is the first to look at the impact of electric fishing in the natural environment, far from the targeted and weak studies produced by Dutch researchers… and funded by Dutch industrials![2] The study was conducted in two comparable areas off the South of England, one regularly fished by electric trawlers and the other not. Results are clear, as the electrified area has a much lower species diversity and abundance. Among others:

  • Species diversity is 21-57% lower in the area where electric fishing is practiced compared to the area that is preserved from this destructive fishing technique;
  • There are 2.6 times fewer soles — the species targeted by electric trawlers — in their area of activity.

This result confirms reports by small-scale fishers around the North Sea, who have been complaining for years about the graveyard-like state of the seabed after the passage of electric trawlers. It also corroborates the drastic drop in sole catches by small-scale fishers in recent years. Electric trawlers are also clearly struggling to reach their quota themselves: in 2018, they caught only 62% of their quota compared to 100% only two years earlier.[3]

Worst fears confirmed

In addition, the study also reveals the high abundance of two particular species in the electrified area: brittle stars and hermit crabs, two detritus-feeders and scavengers. This confirms one of the confessions of the main Dutch scientist conducting studies on electric fishing on behalf of Dutch lobbies, Adriaan Rijnsdorp, who discreetly confessed in January 2018 that “if we took samples from the seabed right away, we would only find dead animals. So we wait for two days“.[4]

A colossal and indisputable impact

Although the authors of the study remain cautious, given that they cannot indisputably attribute these clear differences in terms of biological diversity, abundance and ecosystem structure to electric fishing due to the absence of a historical benchmark,[5] this study is nonetheless crucial. For Frédéric Le Manach, Scientific Director of BLOOM Association, “it at least confirms the harmful nature of beam trawls — electrified or not — and reinforces the idea that electrification of trawls was only carried out to save this destructive fishing method from rapid and unavoidable bankruptcy, without bringing any reduction in impact, despite the constant lies of Dutch representatives“.

The end is near

Despite the ongoing attacks by the Dutch and their attempts to force their way through, we remain calm and confident that electric fishing will be totally and definitively banned,” said Sabine Rosset, director of BLOOM. “They are undoubtedly in panic because we have ruined their dreams of electric fishing, but independent studies are beginning to show up and they only confirm everything we have said during our campaign.” As required by the new European regulation, we are therefore currently witnessing a drastic reduction in the number of electric trawlers — from 84 to around 15 by the end of the year — before their final disappearance in June 2021. The Dutch will remain unsuccessful.

To go further

Read our advocacy document to know everything about electric fishing

[1] CEFAS is the Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science. Website:

[2] Last February, BLOOM highlighted that no money from the the two most recent EU fisheries structural funds — the European Fisheries Fund (EFF, 2007-2013) and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF, 2014-2020) — had been allocated to research institutes directly. Instead, these funds systematically transited through the representatives of the Dutch electric fishing industry first. Study available at:

[3] Read press release from Dutch electric fishing lobby: Dutch).

[4] Interview available at: Dutch).

[5] The areas where electric fishing is practiced were already heavily fished with the old type of trawls.

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