In DepthFisheries

Tensions flare over electric fishing in European waters

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Science  19 Jan 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6373, pp. 261
DOI: 10.1126/science.359.6373.261

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In a surprise outcome, the European Parliament voted 16 January to ban a type of electric fishing that has demonstrated environmental benefits, as part of legislation to reform Europe's fisheries. The proposed end to "pulse trawling"—in which short bursts of electricity get flatfish out of the sediment and into nets—is a major disappointment to Dutch fishing companies, which have invested heavily in the technology; they claim it is less damaging to marine ecosystems than traditional bottom trawling and saves energy. But fishing groups in other EU countries are increasingly angry about competition from the Dutch pulse trawlers. And a coalition of environmental organizations worries about harm to nontarget marine life. Other nongovernmental organizations say pulse trawling has promise to reduce environmental impacts and that ending it now would penalize the fishing industry for innovating. The vote is just the first step in negotiations with the European Commission and member states over the large package of fisheries reforms.