BLOOM fights pulse fishing at the European Parliament

Thanks to efficient lobbying by the Netherlands, a conference was held in the European Parliament on  21 June 2017 on the issue of electric fishing, a technique that shocks the sediments to catch buried fish. BLOOM considers that electrocuting fish cannot be promoted as a desirable alternative to other fishing techniques. Although we had prepared a speech, we had to abbreviate it due to time constraints, but you can read it in full below.

What was said at the conference

Apart from the NGO Seas at Risk — which highlighted the many uncertainties and called for a freeze of the expansion of pulse fishing until its sustainability is truly and independently proved — and the Low Impact Fishers of Europe (LIFE), guest speakers were all behind the Dutch lobby. For instance, Elisa Roller of the European Commission is convinced that despite the numerous uncertainties, the data in their possession are sufficient to consider pulse fishing as a good alternative, especially in order to fulfill the new European landing obligation. Indeed, everything is electrocuted, but only fish that meet a set of physical and physiological conditions (size, fat mass, orientation etc.) are ‘selected’.

In the end, it appears that the main driver for the industrials is the fact that fuel consumption is almost halved, as pulse trawls are lighter and therefore less energy-consuming than conventional trawls.

The best of the worst

Following up on BLOOM’s intervention, Michel Kaiser, President of the International stakeholder dialogue on pulse fisheries, asked Frédéric Le Manach if he “also considered electrical fences around cattle to be an inhuman practice“. He also wanted to point out that “if he held a battery between his fingers, he would also generate an electric current without being impacted“. The relevance of these arguments is close to zero, while the future of European fishermen (and fishermen) is at stake!

Finally, Hans Polet of the Institute for Agricultural and Fisheries Research (ILVO) told the attendees, following an exchange on animal welfare, that cod that had their spines broken by the electric shock were going to die anyway…

BLOOM’s position

First of all, BLOOM would like to congratulate the pulse fishing lobby: you have clearly been effective in imposing pulse fishing in the realm of “normal”, while it should actually trigger massive citizen backlash. We thought we had already seen the worst with deep-sea bottom trawling, but we now realize with you that human folly can push technological aberrations even further, way beyond the boundaries of ethics.

Suggesting that it is acceptable to electrocute nature under the excuse of scientific research and an alleged ecological virtue is equivalent to the diplomatic hypocrisy of international whaling. We are profoundly sorry to see that after all its years of misguidance, but after having been able to confront its mistakes and learn from them, the European Union is once again misdirected, in the worst, most unexpected way there is.

We encourage European institutions and MEPs, not to accept to be steered into cul-de-sac technical and operational discussions. We ask you to look at historical trends and to refuse, as a matter of principle, the last resort of the European fishery.

The signals we receive from fish populations and marine ecosystems are red. We must continue our collective effort to reduce global fishing capacity so that fisheries become economically viable and ecologically sustainable.

The truth is that our fishing capacity is so efficient and that there are so few fish left that the run towards technological hyperefficiency is the only solution available to you to continue making profit from your fishing operations. You want, you must, catch more, as quickly as possible, spending as little fuel as possible, to survive. The development of pulse fishing is the proof of the immense failure of the European fleets to ensure the viability of their fishing operations and the sustainability of the wild and common resource that forms the very basis of their livelihood.

If you, elected officials and European dignitaries, refuse to look at the real problem of our fleets — which is CHRONIC overcapacity — we will never be OK. Do not incentivize with public subsidies a new delirious chapter of European fisheries that you will have to subsidize again in a few years to put an end to it, when the sediment itself will have been emptied.

Our message is concise: STOP the run forward. STOP. It is unacceptable to electrocute nature. Take a step back. EU citizens count on you to show that European fisheries can do better than that, ARE better than that”.

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