A new kind of fishing called pulse trawling uses electricity to shock flatfish and shrimps out of the sediment on the sea floor, upwards into a net.
Officially, pulse trawling is banned by the European Union. Article 31 of Council Regulations (EC) No.850/98 covers unconventional fishing methods and clearly states: ’The catching of marine organisms using methods incorporating the use of explosives, poisons or stupefying substances or electric currents, shall be prohibited’.
But just as Japan uses a legal loophole to continue slaughtering whales for research, the EU has over 100 ’pulse’ fishing trawlers registered with EU companies who operate 20 such trawlers from UK ports. There is no control on the power or frequency of pulses which are emitted by their fishing gear.
Our government should be listening to those people whose livelihoods are dependent on a sustainable fishing industry. Among those who pulse fishing will eventually put out of business are people such as the Thanet Fisherman’s Association, who have reported ‘Fishing in a graveyard …… what they don’t catch (pulse trawlers) they annihilate; virtually everything is dead’. Or the owners of two trawlers operating from Ramsgate: ’This is absolutely devastating for us because we have never caught so many fish that were already dead. It’s waste of time going to that area now. It stinks of dead fish.’
Beam trawling is destructive by scouring the sea bed, indiscriminately pulling in all marine life and destroying all habitat. But ‘pulse fishing’ goes even further, killing almost everything including any non-target species that are in its way.
Once we leave the EU and are no longer tied to its unsustainable Common Fishing Policy (CFP), we have the opportunity to do much better than this. We can ensure that all pulse trawling, including those registered with EU based companies, are banned from British waters and proper enforcement of the law is carried through.