05 October 2018
Electric fishing: a dangerous compromise… rejected for now
05 October 2018
On 4 October, negotiations on the Technical Measures Regulation failed to adopt a shameful compromise, which would have allowed to continue electric fishing as if there were nothing amiss. This success is the result of the mobilization of French MEPs Younous Omarjee (GUE) and Yannick Jadot (Greens/EFA). Yannick Jadot posted the proposed compromise on his blog, enabling us to make a detailed analysis showing the many shortcomings of this proposal. It was clearly contradicting the January 2018 vote of the European Parliament, which was in favor of a full and definitive ban on electric fishing.
> THANKS TO THE MOBILIZATION OF MEPs YANNICK JADOT AND YOUNOUS OMARJEE — WHO WAS SCANDALOUSLY EXCLUDED FROM THE TRILOGUE MEETING — THESE NEGOTIATIONS HAVE FAILED.
1. The proposed compromise is simply scandalous and unacceptable. This is also the conclusion drawn by MEP Yannick Jadot, who showed in his analysis that it would have allowed — despite cosmetic wordings intended to mislead non-expert readers — to continue electric fishing and even to extend its use in the future via a proposal from the Commission.
2. A very unclear compromise for an unacceptable status quo: the proposed compromise does not correspond to the conditions of legal certainty. While the development of electric fishing comes as the result of a series of scandalous decisions (see our campaign chronology and the legal analysis of Dr. Michel Morin, which we advertised on 21 September), both the Commission and Council have fallen back into the flaws we have long denounced. The proposed compromise aims, at first sight, to prohibit electric fishing, but only after 31 December 2021. In fact, it would have allowed to continue to use this radically-efficient fishing method in a commercial maner with 5% of the beam trawl fleet of each Member State, and it did not close the door to additional derogations that could have been granted under the guise of ‘scientific research’ or ‘innovative fishing gear’. While Dr. Morin’s analysis clearly pointed out that licenses beyond the 5% regulatory framework were not complying with European regulations, these would still have been made possible by this compromise. This is not a coincidence, given that all non-regulatory licenses that were granted beyond the 5% limit — i.e. 70 out of the 84 licenses held by the Netherlands — would have been legitimized by the proposed compromise.
3. A useless addition to the section on ‘scientific research’. This compromise also proposed a mind-blowing modification of Article 29 on ‘scientific research’, by introducing a useless and dangerous provision:
“(e) in case of electric pulse trawl fishing, vessels conducting scientific research must follow a specific scientific protocol as part of a scientific research plan that has been reviewed or validated by ICES”
This provision must be removed from any new compromise proposal, as it can only put the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) in a difficult position with a highly political mandate. Indeed, why specify the basics of any scientific research? Any research must of course follow a rigorous scientific protocol and be included in a research plan, what has clearly not been the case since the beginning of electric fishing development.
> READ THE ANALYSIS OF THOMAS SPEKSCHOOR, A DUTCH INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST, ABOUT THE LACK OF SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH
In addition, it was stated in the proposed compromise that the scientific protocol must be “reviewed OR validated by ICES“. Why one or the other? This fuzzy, well thought out semantics creates uncertainty about ICES’ role in this highly political process, which is unacceptable. Moreover, it is essential to ensure that science remains independent and is not held hostage by any political game, especially as the Netherlands have always used ‘research’ to cover a purely commercial fishery. Lastly, this provision did not entirely preclude the possibility of going beyond the 5% framework under the guise of ‘scientific research’, as it has been scandalously done in 2010 and again in 2014.
4. The Commission on hand for better … but especially for worse
While the Commission has shown an appalling moral corruption since the beginning of this file by turning a blind eye to the illegal doings of a Member State (the Netherlands), this proposal gave it full power to reintroduce electric fishing through a new legislative proposal in case ICES gave a positive opinion. As we have already shown, this procedure in no way guarantees an informed scientific opinion.
> DISCOVER HOW ICES HAS BEEN INSTRUMENTALIZED
5. Lack of decision on the framing of ‘innovative fishing gears’
While Dr. Morin’s analysis clearly demonstrates the uselessness of Article 24 on ‘innovative fishing gears’ and the need to remove it, this topic remained unaddressed in the proposed compromise. The possibility of using this article for the development of electric fishing is therefore still on the negotiating table …
This proposed compromise, fortunately not validated on 4 October, is a real Trojan horse of the Dutch electric fishing lobby. The text needs to be completely revised to reflect the position of the European Parliament.