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French artisanal fishermen who mobilize in Boulogne-sur-Mer to complain against electric fishing. (Photo: Bloom Association)

European fishermen mobilize against electric fishing

EUROPEAN UNION
Monday, June 18, 2018, 23:40 (GMT + 9)

Small-scale and traditional fishermen across the European Union are mobilizing in several European ports this Monday to complain against electric fishing and to call on public decision-makers to definitively ban this destructive fishing technique.

These fishermen -- from Belgium, France, Germany, the UK, Italy, Ireland and the Netherlands -- have decided to act with several NGOs to denounce a fishing method which is destroying the marine environment as surely as it is threatening their very economic survival.

Last week, the 23 environmental NGOs and organisations representing fishermen from France, Germany, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom, presented a formal request to the European Anti Fraud Office (OLAF) for it to investigate if there had been fraud related to the Dutch electric pulse trawling fishery.

The 23 groups, led by French anti-electric fishing group Bloom, say they have evidence that Dutch trawlers equipped for pulse fishing, and Dutch research institutes, were given substantial amounts of public funds.

Bloom recalls that electric fishing was forbidden in Europe in 1998 but the European Commission proposed to authorize it as of 2006 under an exceptional derogation regime.

To the organisation, this decision, which went against the explicit scientific advice provided to the Commission, is causing far-reaching chaos.

Bloom also accuses the Dutch government and the European Commission of being mutually guilty of providing electric licenses well beyond the authorized legal limit.

The NGO stresses that to save the nearly-bankrupt and high-impact beam trawl fleet, politicians renamed a destructive fishing method (electric fishing) as “innovative”, thus allowing them not only to practice this prohibited fishing method but to obtain millions of euros of public subsidies to equip beam trawlers with electrodes at the expense of taxpayers and European citizens.

It also highlights that the worst part is that public policies are caught red-handed destroying not just the marine environment, but employment. And it adds that although proven wrong, decision makers and politicians at EU or national levels persist in defending the worst fishing practices instead of the best ones.

Bloom claims that despite the obvious socio-economic and ecological merits of coastal fishing methods used by small-scale and traditional fishers, the most destructive, fuel-intensive and subsidy-dependent fishers are protected by politicians.

The non-government entity is convinced that small-scale fishermen’s future is as pitch black as a tunnel with no light at the end.

The NGO argues that it took reaching that level of despair and being on the verge of bankruptcy for fishers to denounce the oppression of industrial actors in their fishing quarters.

“They are now determined to fight until the end, until electric fishing is fully and definitively banned,” Bloom concludes.

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