European Union trawlers have been stepping up illegal ‘pulse fishing’ in British waters under a special EU derogation, inflicting “total devastation” on the North Sea.
The controversial method sees fishing vessels — mostly Dutch trawlers — drag electrodes across the seabed to zap sole and plaice off the floor.
It is officially banned, but the European Commission — which controls the fisheries of all EU member-states through the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) — granted a special derogation for it to be carried out on an “experimental” basis in British fishing grounds in the North Sea.
Arron Brown, a spokesman for the Fishing for Leave campaign which organised the protest which turned into the famous Battle of the Thames between Leave and Remain campaign during the EU referendum, says the result has been “total environmental devastation” in Britain’s territorial waters.
“Because, of course, it’s not just electrocuting fish, it’s electrocuting all the other marine life around it, and that’s killing the feeding; it’s killing the [other] fish.
“People are retrieving fish with their insides burst out; their backs broken — it is a horrific way of catching fish, done to try and keep an inefficient Dutch industry going,” he told Brexit campaign leader Nigel Farage on LBC.
Hope Our fishing industry, communities & country being robbed of approx £95bn over 34years under the CFP covers the Brexit Bill Mr Barnier?! pic.twitter.com/7P0SfumncO
— Fishing for Leave (@fishingforleave) July 16, 2017
Asked how pulse fishing is allowed to proceed in British waters despite an official ban, Brown explained that it “was meant to be for a trial, for a limited period of time for a limited number of boats — 5 per cent of the Dutch fleet.
“It’s now at 28 per cent of the fleet — a hundred boats — and it’s been going on for ten years. The British government has ignored it because it can’t do anything about it.”
The European Commission had claimed the derogation was in line with scientific advice when it was issued in 2006, but a recent investigation appears to reveal that this is false, with the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) having advised against it.
“[Taking] into account in particular the unknown effect of pulse trawl fisheries on non-target species and the potential impact on vertebrates and invertebrate species, STECF concludes that although the development of this technology should not be halted, there are a number of issues that need to be resolved before any derogation can be granted,” it said.
Fishing for Leave say no British-owned vessels use the pulse fishing method, although a number of Dutch trawlers which register their flags in the UK to access Britain’s share of EU apportioned quotas — so-called “flagships” — do.