Possible endgame for electric fishing

The date for the next Trilogue meeting between the European Commission, the EU Council (Member States) and the European Parliament is now set for Wednesday 13 February. It will take place at the Parliament in Strasbo‹qurg.

Exactly two months before the last plenary session of the European Parliament preceding the elections, negotiators are not allowed to fail if they wish to conclude the reform of the Regulation on “Technical measures” begun 10 years ago, which includes measures concerning the use of electrical current as a fishing technique.

The balance of power has radically changed since BLOOM started revealing a series of serious dysfunctions linked to the electric fishing case, and what are now confirmed fraudulent and illegal practices pointing to lobbies of the industrial fishing sector in the Netherlands.

Short chronology

  • As a reminder, BLOOM revealed in October 2017, by filing a complaint against the Netherlands, that 83% of electric fishing licences were illegal. On 1 February 2019, following an order by the European Ombudsman, the Commission confirmed the relevance of BLOOM’s complaint and declared wanting to open an official infringement procedure against the Netherlands. The final decision rests with the College of Commissioners. Jean-Claude Juncker, questioned by BLOOM, still did not specify when this decision would be taken.
  • In January 2018, BLOOM revealed that the decision by the European Commission to authorise electric fishing, a practice considered until 2006 as a destructive method, had been deliberately taken AGAINST scientific advice.
  • On 16 January 2018, after a superhuman effort by BLOOM, small-scale fishers and a NGO coalition coordinated by BLOOM, the European Parliament voted for a total and final ban on electric fishing in Europe.
  • In June 2018, BLOOM obtains the file on subsidies allocated to the Dutch fishing sector and reveals in November that the development, in majority illegal, of electric fishing in Europe, was facilitated by a subsidy of 21.5 million euros of public funds. BLOOM also filed a complaint and asked for the opening of an investigation for fraud to the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) relating to these undue subsidies.
  • On 6 November 2018, failing a response from the institutions concerning these licences and illegal subsidies, BLOOM seized the European Ombudsman for maladministration and renewed its complaint to OLAF.
  • Required to reply before 31 January 2019, the European Commission eventually confirmed to BLOOM that its accusations were substantiated: the licences are illegal and the Commission’s Directorate of Fisheries requests the opening of an infringement procedure against the Netherlands.
> To find all key dates of our campaign, visit our campaign page

Dutch industrials, the only users of this destructive fishing practice, have started to deploy a considerable arsenal of diplomatic power (permanent representation, elected politicians, ministers, lobbyists) in an attempt to counter what is on the horizon and that which BLOOM has been fighting for tooth and nail since 2016: a total ban on electric fishing in Europe. They threaten to bloc harbours, which might lead to a powerful counter-mobilisation of small-scale fishers, who are threatened of extinction due to the destructive practices of industrials.

The Trilogue on Wednesday 13 February 2019 could be the last. The negotiation positions are the following:

  • The European Commission, weakened, has been forced to recognize the illegality of the electric fishing licences;
  • The Council just softened its position towards a total ban on electric fishing, but with an enforcement date recommended on 1 January 2022, which is unacceptable for small-scale fishers from around the North Sea, already ruined and wasted by industrial lobbies and their actions corrupting public decisions.
  • The Parliament is split between, on the one hand traditional supporters of lobbies, such as the Regulation’s Rapporteur, the Spanish European People’s Party’s MEP Gabriel Mato who asks for a ban in 2021, and on the other the majority of MEPs who ask for a ban on 31 July 2019.

As often, it is the Socialist group (Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, S&D) which is in a position to tip the decision of the Parliament, here in favour of a ban on 31 July 2019. The French Socialist group has just declared it is in favour of this date.

BLOOM will go the Strasbourg Parliament on Wednesday and is counting on all the European MEPs to defend the health of marine ecosystems and the small-scale fishers of our regions, against the destruction of the environment, economy and democracy by industrial practices.

Share :