Pulse fishing involves electrodes being deployed to cause muscular spasms in fish to dislodge certain flatfish species and shrimp that dwell close to or in the sea bed.

Fisherman Aart van der Waal empties his nets in the polders surrounding the Southern Dutch Village of Numansdorp September 28, 2009.
Fisherman Aart van der Waal empties his nets in the polders surrounding the Southern Dutch Village of Numansdorp September 28, 2009. (Reuters)

The Netherlands on Thursday lost a bid before the European Court of Justice to overturn an EU law banning electric pulse fishing, a practice widely used by Dutch fisherman.

The court rejected arguments that the EU law ignored certain scientific opinions regarding its impact on marine ecosystems.

"None of the arguments put forward by the Netherlands demonstrates the manifestly inappropriate nature of the technical measures in question," it ruled.

The verdict triggered a sharp response from Dutch fishing industry representatives.

"The decision-making in Europe to ban pulse fishing is based on emotional smear campaigns and not on the best available scientific advice," the umbrella Dutch Fishing Union and VisNed organisations said in a statement.

The European Court's ruling was the "last hope for many family businesses using pulse fishing in these already difficult times," they added.

Pulse fishing involves electrodes being deployed to cause muscular spasms in fish to dislodge certain flatfish species and shrimp that dwell close to or in the sea bed. It does not kill or stun the fish, but rather causes them to jump up into the path of nets trawled along by commercial vessels.

Damaging impact on marine ecosystems

The practice derives from beam fishing, a non-electric technique that has been used for decades by Dutch and British fishermen in the North Sea, where nets on booms on either side of a ship scoop up bottom-feeding fish.

The EU law banning fishing through electric currents, poisons, pneumatic hammers or explosives was adopted in 2019 and is to take full effect in July after a transitional period expires.

The European Court of Justice said that, while scientific opinions had found some advantages with pulse trawling over beam trawling, MEPs had sufficiently explained why the ban was necessary and were in any case entitled to consider other factors.

Dutch fishing companies have complained that dropping pulse fishing and going back to beam trawling will cut the yield of each haul by hundreds of thousands of euros.

Around 80 trawlers in the Netherlands carried out pulse fishing before the EU law was adopted, but half have stopped the practice ahead of it taking effect, according to the Dutch agriculture ministry.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies