12 July 2018
Dramatic trends and a serious error in the new FAO reports on global fisheries
12 July 2018
During the thirty-third session of its Committee on Fisheries, held from 9-13 July 2018 in Rome, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) released two reports on the state of the world fisheries and aquaculture and on the impacts of climate change on these sectors. Both reports confirm alarming trends: overfishing is worsening worldwide (with 33% of wild fish stocks now overexploited against 31% in the previous 2016 report), per capita seafood consumption is also increasing, while 35% of fish caught are either discarded or wasted. The reports highlight that the most vulnerable coastal communities that rely on fish for their survival will be hit hardest by climate change. These two excellent reports make it clear that governments throughout the world must act swiftly and adequately if they are serious about meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Unfortunately, the second report — which aims to showcase promising ways to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change — includes a serious error about electric fishing, which could have massive consequences on the fishing sector at global scale, if not corrected swiftly.
A GRAVE ERROR IN THE FAO REPORT
The FAO second report mentions that “energy saving can be substantial when using electrical impulse in the North Sea. Dutch research demonstrated 40 percent to 50 percent reduction in fuel use when lighter and slower pulse trawls were used compared with heavy and faster traditional beam trawls because of the drag reduction in the pulse trawl”. This statement is a copy-paste from the Dutch electric fishing propaganda, which was not challenged by the FAO before being inserted as such in its seminal report. Unfortunately, it is bluntly false.
This is extremely regrettable because the FAO reports reach far and wide and influence policy makers in the fishing sector worlwide.
Electric fishing in the North Sea does not result in substantial energy saving, as evidenced by catch to fuel consumption ratios: regular beam trawls catch 420g of fish per litre of fuel while electric trawls also catch 450g of fish per litre. Electric trawls are just much more efficient at catching the most expensive species (in this case sole), than the gear they replace (beam trawls), therefore reaching their quotas faster than they used to.
DIRE CONSEQUENCES FOR ALL FISHERS
While fundamental questions such as the impacts of electricity on the development of juveniles, eggs, the reproduction stages of marine organisms etc. remain unquantified or poorly studied, the radical efficacy of electric trawlers does threaten the very future of artisanal fishers throughout the North Sea. “If electric fishing were to spread, it would ravage coastal economies and ecosystems around the world, leading to socio-economic catastrophes in areas such as the African continent” alerted BLOOM’s scientific director Frédéric Le Manach. “Electric fishing is banned throughout the world for a good reason”he reminded. “In Europe, electric fishing has only been authorized since 2006 through scandalous exemptions that were granted against scientific advice. In this instance, Europe is no model for the rest of the world.”
Electric fishing is not about mitigating climate change and even less about increasing food security: it’s only about increasing profit margins and quota concentration, which is not something the FAO should ever promote.
BLOOM calls on the FAO to honour its mission and motto “Fiat Panis”, i.e. “let there be bread (for everyone)” and to swiftly delete such a false, misleading and potentially dangerous mention from its landmark report.
TO GO FURTHER
> Read our revelations on the multi-facetted scandal of electric fishing in Europe
> Read our information document about electric fishing
NOTES AND REFERENCES
Also, note that the FAO report quotes Jeremy Percy, Director of the Low impact fishers of Europe platform (LIFE), which is non-sense. Mr. Percy and his platform are currently involved in an EU-wide campaign against electric fishing.
 See the IMARES report, available at:www.nsrac.org/wpcontent/uploads/2014/04/16383_Imares_Factsheet_Pulse_Fishery.pdf.