IFREMER criticizes scientific advice on Electric Fishing

IFREMER, the French Research Institute for the Exploitation of the Sea, published on 20 June 2018 an analysis of the scientific advice produced by ICES on electric fishing. This advice was produced following a special request by the Netherlands in February 2018, after the vote of the European Parliament in favour of a full and definitive ban on electric fishing. This request, drafted by the ICES Advisory Committee (ACOM), was to compare “the ecological and environmental effects of pulse trawls and traditional beam trawls when exploiting the North Sea sole TAC”. As a result of this extremely narrow question, ICES concluded that “there are fewer ecological and environmental effects of using pulse trawls than traditional beam trawls when exploiting the total allowable catch (TAC) of North Sea sole”.

BLOOM produced a critical analysis of this advice which is politically-driven by the Netherlands to prevent a full ban on electric fishing.

IFREMER reminds in its analysis that « this ICES advise was formulated to answer a specific question. It does not constitute as such an opinion on the use of electric pulse trawl ».

IFREMER also underlines the small number of observations and experiments on which this ICES advice is based: “Data usually come from  few observations and experiments, for both electric trawls and traditional beam trawls”. IFREMER considers that the precautionary approach, which was included in another piece of scientific advice produced by ICES in 2016 but not in this one, is still valid. In 2016, ICES advised “not to generalize from the results of the research carried out to date to allow expansion of the use of the pulse trawl outside the present area and the fisheries allowed for in the current legislation”.

IFREMER points to the lack of knowledge about the impacts of electric currents on marine ecosystems, as well as “medium and long-term impacts on critical life stages, notably the reproduction (sexual maturation, gametogenesis) and the embyo-larval development.” It was also mentioned in the ICES advice that “There is no information available on the effects on any species at early life history stages after exposure to the sole pulse.” Despite this lack of knowledge and studies, ICES considered as unlikely potential population level effects.

Read Le Monde article about the dysfunctional and biased production of the ICES Electric Fishing advice

IFREMER emphasizes that “the impact of repetitive exposure to electrical stimulation was only indirectly addressed through low probability of repetitive disturbance based on the percentage of areas trawled several times”. However, we would like to emphasize that this calculation does not account for the distribution of soles and critical life stages.

Last but not least, IFREMER indicates in its analysis that the effects of electrical currents on the functioning of marine ecosystems have not been studied enough: “only a few qualitative observations have been done, which can not be generalized”. Thus, ICES based its conclusions on inferences but not on scientifically proven facts.

BLOOM shares the view of IFREMER and welcomes its will to bring objective elements in the electric fishing debate and on the recent ICES advice.

Further reading

Read our file: “HAND IN HAND. Electric fishing, a perfect case of moral corruption

On 18 June 2018, NGOs and fishermen united against electric fishing in Europe. Read our press release.

See pictures of the 18 June’s mobilization of fishers and NGOs around Europe





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