Electric Pulse Fishing: EU Agrifish Council must make comprehensive impact assessment

Brussels, 11 May 2017:- Campaign group Our Fish today called on EU Fisheries Ministers at the Agrifish Council meeting in Brussels to require the highest level of environmental impact assessment for electric pulse fishing in European waters, or return to a total prohibition of the method.

During the meeting, EU Fisheries Ministers will consider technical measures for European fisheries management, including how to limit and regulate “innovative fishing gears” such as electric pulse fishing. There is currently limited understanding of the environmental impacts of this fishing method.

A release of the Draft Technical Measures, show that the Council have weakened the proposal by removing requirements for full environmental impact assessments of electric pulse fishing on sensitive habitats and non-target species, evaluated and confirmed by the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) (1).

“By failing to uphold stringent environmental impact assessments for electric pulse fishing , the Agrifish Council is in danger of abandoning the precautionary principle in favour of pandering to the demands of the fishing industry”, said Rebecca Hubbard, Our Fish Campaign Manager. “Our Fish is calling on the EU Fisheries Ministers at the Agrifish Council to ensure the highest level of environmental impact assessment on habitats and non-target species from electric pulse fishing , by reinserting the need for STECF review, or return to a total prohibition”, said Rebecca Hubbard, Our Fish Campaign Manager.

Electric pulse fishing is a form of trawling that emits electric pulses into the seabed to shock fish off and out of the seafloor, where they are caught by trawl net. The Dutch fishing industry has been advocating for the development of electric pulse fishing in European waters, despite significant concerns from fishermen, conservation organisations and politicians for unknown impacts on habitats and marine life (2,3).

Until 2007, fishing using electrocution was prohibited in European waters, however the dramatically reduced fuel costs, compared to conventional beam trawling, has motivated the Dutch fishing industry to lobby for its development. After experimental exemptions were granted, the practice has spread throughout the North Sea.

Combined with historically low price of fuel, electric pulse fishing fishing makes for a more profitable haul. The Dutch fishing industry and government claim that electric pulse fishing is environmentally sustainable and less damaging than beam trawl fishing (4).

“Considering how beam trawl fishing steamrolls seabed habitats and catches vast quantities of other non-target species, saying that electric pulse fishing is ‘better’ doesn’t make for a ringing endorsement”, said Hubbard. “There have been limited thorough studies on the impacts of electrocution trawl fishing on sensitive habitats, and non-target species, especially animals that rely on electroreception, and on fish eggs and larvae . The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea has reported on the significant gaps in knowledge and the need for more thorough research and regulatory framework (5)”.



(1). Release of Draft Technical Measures (Politico) http://www.politico.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Council-Technical-Measures.pdf?utm_source=POLITICO.EU&utm_campaign=baeffc217c-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_04_27&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_10959edeb5-baeffc217c-190010205

(2). A shocking way to catch fish: electric pulse beam trawling http://lifeplatform.eu/a-shocking-way-to-catch-fish-electric-pulse-beam-trawling/;

Bloom: Pulse Fishing  https://www.bloomassociation.org/en/pulse-fishing/;

Bloom: French Environment Minister calls for a true European ban on pulse fishing 


(3). Project Pulsefishing


Agreement to double pulse trawl licences


(4). Ibid.

(5). Request from France for updated advice on the ecosystem effects of pulse trawl lhttps://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2016/Special_Requests/France_Effects_of_pulse_trawl.pdf


Dave Walsh, Communications Advisor, dave@our.fish +34 691826764

About Our Fish

Our Fish works to ensure European member states implement the Common Fisheries Policy and achieve sustainable fish stocks in European waters.

Our Fish brings together organisations from across Europe to speak with a common voice: overfishing of our waters must be stopped, and solutions put in place that ensure Europe’s waters are fished sustainably. Our Fish demands that the Common Fisheries Policy be properly enforced, and Europe’s fisheries effectively governed.

Our Fish calls on all EU Member States to set annual fishing limits at sustainable limits based on scientific advice, and to ensure that their fishing fleets prove that they are fishing sustainably, through monitoring and full documentation of their catch.