Slow Food has joined 30 civil society groups calling on the European Commission to ultimately stop electric fishing. Despite being banned in the EU, this fishing method is still practiced in Europe, with one of the most notable cases of the Netherlands. The research, carried out by Bloom association, reveals the extent of lobbying and the public subsidies granted to industrial electric trawlers, going against public interest and regulatory framework. The results of the research were disclosed today at the press conference in the European Parliament.
Bloom and other organizations involved asked the European Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly and the Anti-Fraud office to assess “the serious administrative failure” of the European Commission on electric fishing. It has been over a year since Bloom filed a complaint against the Netherlands, exposing the illegality of most electric fishing licenses granted to Dutch vessels to practice this method of fishing, which was completely banned in Europe until 2006. Nevertheless, the Commission has not provided any answer until today.
“The failure to respond to our complaint is symptomatic of the arbitrary power of the European Commission, the situation is too serious for us to remain passive,” said Claire Nouvian, a founder of Bloom, adding that this attitude drives people to “despair and into the arms of anti-Europe populists.”
Civil society groups are concerned that European negotiations are moving towards re-authorization of electric fishing, which is a direct consequence of strong industrial lobbying of the European Commission and the Member States. The European Parliament rejected an increase in the number of electric trawlers in 2013, and it adopted an amendment to ban the use of pulsed electric current for fishing in January 2018.
“63 percent were in favor of banning pulse fishing, and yet the Commission behind closed doors is working to thwart the will of the Parliament. If the clear decision of this Parliament is completely disregarded, what is the point of this place,” asked John Flack, a member of the PECH committee on fisheries at the European Parliament.
Meanwhile, environmentalist Yannick Jadot, representing the Greens at the European Parliament, urged MEPs of all political groups to remobilize and to ensure that the European Parliament stands firm on the ban. “Our position is not for negotiations to continue for months or even years. There is an urgent need to ban electric fishing as our fishers are witnessing the disappearance of resources.”
Europe prohibited electric fishing in 1998 to protect juvenile fish and fisheries. In 2006, under pressure from the Dutch fishing industry, the Commission proposed to authorize the use of electric current to catch fish in the North Sea under a derogation regime. As a result, the Dutch trawl industry was able to claim millions of euros in public subsidies to equip vessels with electrodes. These super-efficient electric trawlers are not only jeopardizing the health of marine ecosystems but the livelihoods of thousands of fishers working sustainably in the UK, France, Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands.