ELECTRIC FISHING: THE inexhaustible dishonesty of the NETHERLANDS

The Dutch Minister for Fisheries, Carola Schouten, has taken the scandalous initiative of extending 42 illegal licenses for ‘electric fishing’ until 1 June 2019, which were supposed to have expired in February 2019. As revealed by the Dutch press, the Minister did not ask for permission from the European Commission. In the meantime, the College of European Commissioners must still decide whether or not to open an infringement procedure against the Netherlands on the touchy issue of the illegal licenses. The Dutch Minister sent a letter to all licensed fishermen informing them of this extension.

“This decision is totally outrageous. The Netherlands have decided unilaterally to illegally extend licenses which are… illegal. This member state behaves like a rogue state, in defiance of European law and the Trilogue agreement reached on February 13 of this year, with no reaction whatsoever from the European Commission” protests Laetitia Bisiaux, Leader of the ‘Electric Fishing Project’ at BLOOM.

BLOOM sent a letter on 1 April to the Director General of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, João Aguiar Machado, to inform him of this disgraceful decision taken by the Netherlands and to ask the Commission for transparency on the licenses granted, and honesty and responsiveness in dealing with the infringement procedure against the Netherlands. We are only a few weeks away from the European elections; the repeated scandals of the ‘electric fishing’ case must now end.


Three series of derogations were granted over the 2006-2018 period:

– 22 derogations using article 31a of the EU Council Regulation n° 850/1998 (5% of the beam trawl fleet, normally 18 derogations),

– 20 derogations using article 43 of the EU Council Regulation n° 850/1998 (scientific research),

– 42 derogations using article 43 of the EU Council Regulation n° 850/1998 (pilot project limited to a 5 year period).

The ban on electric fishing will come into effect on 1 July 2021. During the transition period, only 5% of the fleet of beam trawlers (approximately ten vessels) may continue using this technique. Currently, 84 trawlers are still electric fishing in the North Sea. The Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries acknowledged that the Netherlands were in violation of EU law; it is now up to the College of Commissioners to decide to open an infringement procedure against that Member State.



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