Electric fishing: ultimatum to the European Commission

BLOOM calls on the European Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius to eventually take strong measures against the Netherlands, which continues to trample regulations on electric fishing in the greatest indifference of European institutions.

> Read our letter to Virginijus Sinkevičius

Many unaddressed alarms

While DG MARE services admitted that the Netherlands was in breach on 1 February 2019,[1] no proceedings have yet been initiated by the College of Commissioners. The Dutch electric fishing industry continues to quietly enjoy an excessive number of licences, keeping 22 of them although only 15 should be allowed until June 2021. Then, this fishing method will be definitively and completely banned.[2]

BLOOM calls for a strong response, reflecting the seriousness of the infringements committed by the Netherlands over the years, which we have denounced by filing two complaints:[3]We will refer the matter to the European Ombudsman once again if the Commission continues to turn a blind eye to our alerts. As Guardian of the Treaty, its duty is to sanction those who do not comply by the rules. The credibility of our institutions and the mandate of the new Commissioner are at stake. We no longer want to hear nice speeches, we want strong actions! “says Frédéric Le Manach, BLOOM’s Scientific Director. Virginijus Sinkevičius stated, during his hearing at the European Parliament in October 2019:[4] “Legislation is only as good as its implementation. I would work closely with the Member States to improve that implementation in all policy areas. Using every tool at my disposal, that includes dialogue, the Environment implementation review, infringement proceedings and the EU court. We need laws that work for our citizens, for environment and for oceans and fisheries and for businesses across the EU. So let’s act now.

The Netherlands challenged the electric fishing ban

On 13 February 2019, the three European institutions reached an agreement to ban electric fishing from 1 July 2021.[5] But the Netherlands is still fighting tooth and nail to have this ban lifted, because this destructive fishing is very profitable for its users. In October 2019, this Member State filed a complaint before the Court of Justice of the European Union to denounce the ban;[6] an utter nonsense, as the Netherlands is the one having committed multiple infringements over the years.[7]

Small-scale fishers abandoned

BLOOM points out that electric fishing was developed in defiance of European legislations and coastal fishers, who have suffered a drastic drop in their catches and revenue. “Gillnetters in the North of France are going bankrupt. Half of them are selling their vessels. They have asked for emergency aid and biological recovery for sole, but these measures have been refused due to this species supposedly doing well. But the electric trawlers themselves have seen their catches drastically drop in recent years,” says Laetitia Bisiaux, in charge of the electric fishing campaign at BLOOM. The Netherlands has indeed caught only 62% of its quota for sole in 2019 and caught 1200 tons less than on the previous year. However, the sole quota in the North Sea has been increased by 40% for the year 2020, a nonsense.

To ensure that justice be done, it is high time that the European Commission finally assumed its responsibilities in order to restore people’s trust in our institutions. BLOOM demands a response by 10 April 2020.

Notes et references

[1] Letter from Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries available at: https://www.bloomassociation.org/en/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/reponse-commission-licences-illegales.pdf

[2] See our article: https://www.bloomassociation.org/peche-electrique-22-licences/

[3] BLOOM  lodged two complaints with the European Commission to denounce the infringements committed by the Netherlands with regard to electric fishing:

  • 2 October 2017: the Netherlands have granted 84 licences, which is well beyong the legal framework.
  • On 18 September 2019: following the implementation of the new “technical measures” regulation, the Netherlands should have kept only 15 derogations until 1 July 2021. However, they still have 22, which is once again beyond the legal framework.

[4] See transcript of the hearing of Virginijus Sinkevičius on 3 October 2019 (p7): www.europarl.europa.eu/resources/library/media/20191004RES63404/20191004RES63404.pdf

[5] Read our press release: www.bloomassociation.org/en/victory-electric-fishing/

[6] Read our article: https://www.bloomassociation.org/en/netherlands-ridicule/

[7] Read our document “HAND IN HAND” on the moral corruption in the electric fishing case

[8] Read our critique of the ICES advice issued in May 2018: https://www.bloomassociation.org/en/critical-analysis-ices-advice/

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