As was the case with electric fishing, Dutch lobbies have adopted a fait accompli strategy to impose Danish seine (also called flyshooter by the Dutch industry) in the English Channel. This strategy consists of developing a fishing gear and monopolising resources while ignoring the laws and the anger of neighbouring fishers. But when the situation becomes very tense, the industry finally seeks the consent of other fishers. This is how Dutch industrial fishing orchestrates the legitimacy of the Danish seine, which is much criticised by artisanal fishers. BLOOM deciphers the stakes and the dangers of an agreement between the stakeholders that would not be ambitious enough to protect the resource and the artisanal fishers.


Having exhausted the resources in their waters, particularly in the North Sea, the Dutch industry must conquer new fishing grounds. This is how the Danish seine became so popular in Europe, particularly in the Channel.[1] The attraction of this technique is above all linked to its fuel savings compared to a bottom trawl. The financial stakes are therefore at the heart of the battle for these few dozen boats. Indeed, the Dutch industry owns at least 30 vessels, 13 of which are under French (France Pélagique), Belgian, German or English flags. These industrial vessels are up to 38 metres long. The fishers are up in arms against this technique, which they consider too efficient and non-regulated. For example, clashes have already taken place in Boulogne-sur-Mer, where fishers blocked the Loubet basin in December 2020 to denounce the presence of these seiners. The constant presence of Dutch fishers in the Channel is so disturbing that French seiners are also denouncing it. In France, according to the European fleet register, there are 25 seiners, 10 of which are registered in Boulogne-sur-Mer (their size is between 19 and 25 metres).


For more than a year, Dutch lobbies have been trying to reach an agreement called the Gentleman Agreement with neighbouring countries in order to silence criticism. Several confidential meetings have been held to negotiate a framework for bottom seining in the Channel. The dice are obviously loaded because only a handful of people with private interests represent the fishers. At the helm of the negotiations, VisNed (the Dutch lobby that also defends electric fishing) is trying to convince the representatives of the other countries to sign an undemanding agreement. Among the negotiators, British fishers are represented by the Dutchman Andries de Boer, director of the British Lowestoft Fish Producers Organisation! The fate of British fishers is therefore in the hands of those who motivated the vast majority of small-scale fishers to vote for Brexit. On the Belgian side, the negotiator is a representative of the company Padmos, a shipbuilder, including seiners. It was a daring move. On the French side, fishers are represented by the Comité National des Pêches, the Comité Régional des Pêches des Hauts-de-France, the Comité Régional des Pêches de Normandie, the Organisation de Producteurs de Normandie, the Organisation de Producteurs FROM Nord and the Coopérative Maritime Etaploise.[2]


The tensions between fishers are a clear symptom of the need for a strict framework. But it is essential to ensure that it is respected. However, the Gentleman’s Agreement wants to limit the number of fishing days, parameters that are totally uncontrollable. Indeed, it is hard to believe that such a limitation will be respected when one knows the history of fraud committed by the Dutch fishing industry. The example of electric fishing is particularly significant: despite BLOOM’s warnings and complaints against their illegal licences, the European Commission takes no action and allows the Netherlands to trample on European law. Fraudulent practices by trawlers fishing with electricity (or not) often make the headlines in the Dutch press: fishing in protected areas, illegal mesh sizes, undersized fish, etc. These frauds, which are known to all, are often the result of a number of factors. These frauds, known to all, including the Commission, have reached such proportions that the Dutch fishers’ organisation Vissersbond sent a letter asking all its members to stop cheating on mesh sizes. Indeed, their analysis of catches landed at auctions showed that too many small sole were being caught as a result of the use of non-regulatory mesh sizes.

The Gentleman Agreement also wants to limit the mesh size to 70 mm, even though the European regulation (Regulation 2019/1241) specifies that it must be at least 80 mm. However, the Dutch industry is currently using a non-regulatory mesh size by exploiting a flaw in the regulation on technical measures. Indeed, it can be 70 mm in the case of targeted squid fishing. However, the definition of targeted species has disappeared from this regulation, it can be defined at regional level in delegated acts.[3] This lack of safeguards creates an opportunity to use a smaller mesh size. How could the co-legislators of this regulation – the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union – have left such a legal vacuum? It is likely that industry lobbies are behind this regulatory flaw.


Seiners mainly target species not subject to quotas, such as red mullet and squid. However, the lack of control in English and European waters encourages fraud on landings of species not subject to quotas, as only estimates can be given for catches outside the quota between 2012 and 2016. Dutch Danish seine vessels are particularly pointed out in the specialist journal Fishing News. This possible fraud echoes the letter of formal notice sent to the Netherlands in October 2020 by the European Commission[4], which considers that this Member State does not ensure proper control of landings in their ports, which can lead to overfishing and failure to respect quotas.


Faced by an industry that thinks it has free rein, some fishers want to create a marine area reserved for fishing by vessels of less than 25 metres only. As a result, the largest seiners and giant trawlers would be effectively excluded, and the sharing of the area would be more equitable among fishers. Combating Dutch investments based on gigantism is a major challenge. Once the resources are exhausted, the voracious appetite of the industry will shift to other areas and other species. What if their next targets were whelks and scallops caught in Normandy?


[1] BLOOM recalls its opposition to the Danish seine because this fishing method is too efficient. It is all the more damaging to ecosystems as the Dutch use it on large vessels, some of which are 38 metres long.

[2] The CNPMEM has 42 members, including 12 representatives of the regional committees (CRPMEM), 13 representatives of sea fishing companies and 1 for marine farming, 3 representatives of maritime cooperatives and 11 representatives of producer organisations. There is no representation of small-scale fishing, which does not even have a consultative role. On the other hand, the former Director General of France Pélagique, Antoine Dhellemmes (replaced by his son Geoffrey since January 2020), is 4th vice-president of the National Fisheries Committee and president of the FROM NORD producer organisation, which alone manages more than 128,000 tonnes of quotas in France, i.e. almost 40% of the national total.

[3] Regulation 2019/1241: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/FR/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32019R1241&from=EN
According to Article 6: “directed fishing’ means fishing effort targeted at a specific species or group of species and may be further specified at regional level in delegated acts adopted pursuant to Article 27(7) of this Regulation

[4] https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/inf_20_1687


External marking Name of the vessel Flag Capital Size
SC 10 Amrumbank Germany Netherlands 32 m
Z 35 Ora et Labora Belgium Netherlands 38.22 m
Z-296 MOOIE MEID Belgium Netherlands 38 m
BL936072 MADELEINE France Netherlands 24.99 m
CC 545-2 Tourmalet France Netherlands 34 m
CC 622 Larche France Netherlands 34 m
GO 01 Wouter Adriaantje Netherlands Netherlands 26.99 m
SCH 135 Galibier Netherlands Netherlands 34 m
SCH 65 Simplon Netherlands Netherlands 34 m
SL 09 Johanna Netherlands Netherlands 34.3 m
SL 27 Johannes Netherlands Netherlands 35.79 m
SL 45 Stellar Netherlands Netherlands 31.67 m
UK 112 Wilhelmina Netherlands Netherlands 28.3 m
UK 124 Luut Senior Netherlands Netherlands 24.98 m
UK 135 Sjoerd Hendrikje Netherlands Netherlands 24.98 m
UK 145 Teunis van Atje Netherlands Netherlands 27.10 m
UK 150 Polar Néerlandais Netherlands 32 m
UK 153 Lub Senior Néerlandais Netherlands 28.5 m
UK 160 Riemda Néerlandais Netherlands 32.9 m
UK 22 Stella Polaris Néerlandais Netherlands 30.5 m
UK 224 Tunis van Luut Néerlandais Netherlands 33.55 m
UK 48 Nova Cura Néerlandais Netherlands 28.6 m
UK 642 Berendina Néerlandais Netherlands 27.12 m
E 104 Ansgar UK Netherlands 36.6 m
FD 157 Jacoba Maria UK Netherlands 36 m
GY127 HENDRIKA JACOBA UK Netherlands 23.88 m
LH 356 Henk Senior UK Netherlands 28.62 m
LT 295 Jonge Johannes UK Netherlands 31 m
LT 43 Annalijdia UK Netherlands 37.51 m
PZ198 AALTJE ADRIAANTJE UK Netherlands 28.6 m


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