Unprecedented EU-wide mobilization of fishers against electric fishing
Small-scale and traditional fishers of various nations are mobilizing in ports in a simultaneous action of resistance to protest against electric fishing and to call on public decision-makers to definitively ban electric fishing in the EU.
Fishers from Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Germany and the UK have decided to act with BLOOM and other NGOs to denounce a fishing method which is destroying the marine environment as surely as it is threatening their very economic survival. They are taking action at 9 am on Monday 18 June 2018 in the following ports around the North Sea: IJmuiden (Netherlands), Nieuwpoort (Belgium), Boulogne-sur-Mer (France), Lowestoft (UK). Other regions are mobilizing too: Flensburg on the Baltic Sea (Germany) and the following regions in France: Concarneau, Le Guilvinec and Saint Brieuc in Brittany, Saint Mandrier and La Ciotat on the Mediterranean Coast and Saint Jean de Luz on the Atlantic Coast.
Electric fishing was forbidden in Europe in 1998 but the European Commission proposed to authorize it as of 2006 under an exceptional derogation regime. This decision, which went against the explicit scientific advice provided to the Commission, is causing far-reaching chaos: as a result, an entire commercial fleet converted to a prohibited, destructive fishing method under the guise of experimental and scientific licenses, but by the public admission of the Dutch government, scientists and fishing industry, such scientific activities were not conducted. The Dutch government and European Commission have also been mutually guilty of providing electric licenses well beyond the authorized legal limit.
From a financial point of view, electric fishing has become a symbol of the biased arbitration of public authorities in favour of an over-represented, politically powerful fishing lobby. 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.
This file is a European embarrassment comparable to scientific whaling . It contradicts all EU commitments to sustainability, breaks EU rules of financial transparency and tramps legal obligations to ensure equitable access to resources among fishers. Finally, electric fishing also treads on regulatory objectives of environmental restoration and use of public monies.
The worst part though is that public policies are caught red-handed destroying not just the marine environment, but employment . And although proven wrong, decision makers and politicians at EU or national levels persist in defending the worst fishing practices instead ofthe best ones. For example, while electric trawlers discard between 50 to 70%1 of fish caught, gillnetters only discard a maximum of 6%.2 Similarly, for one liter of fuel burnt, gillnetters catch up to 6 times more fish (2 to 3 kilos) than electric trawlers (450 grams).
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 catch the ear of politicians.
In every aspect, electric fishing shames Europe.
Over the years, the depletion of fish along the coastline of the North Sea has brought traditional fishers to the brink of economic collapse. As an example, between 2014 and 2018, French gillnetters from the North have lost on average 50% of their catch of sole.3
Industrial lobbies, year after year, have gained control over "producer organizations” (which allocate fishing quotas), political representation bodies, port management structures and fleet ownerships. Small fishers have been slowly but surely forced to silence because if they dare speak up against dominant actors, retaliation is immediate and fierce (quotas, fishing rights, licenses etc.)
Their future is as pitch black as a tunnel with no light at the end . 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.
The coalition of NGOs and fishermen launched a collective platform of action to call on decision makers.
Kontakt: Wolfgang Albrecht, Fischereischutzverband – Schleswig-Holstein | firstname.lastname@example.org
Umwelt | Umweltschutz, 15.06.2018
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