View Full Version : Story from 2012 about Electro-Pulse beamers

Davie Tait
27th April 2014, 23:17

Zapped: Britain’s fishing graveyard

UK fishermen claim nets used by the Dutch that send out electric shocks are annihilating fish stocks

Jon Ungoed-Thomas Published: 24 June 2012

Jeff Loveland says the sea off Kent stinks of dead fish (Dwayne Senior)

THE Dutch trawler fleet is being blamed by British fishermen for “annihilating” stocks of juvenile Dover sole with a net that sends electric shocks into the sea floor.

The Dutch vessels are allowed to fish 12 miles off the Kent coast, but British crews claim their pioneering electric shock technology is devastating marine life and destroying the fishing grounds. They are urging fisheries officials to investigate.

The electrified nets are designed to give bottom-lying Dover sole a minor shock to move them into the nets. Dutch officials say the method — known as “pulse trawling” — causes less damage to the sea floor and nearby species.

Research has shown the electric nets can kill nearby cod, cracking their vertebrae and causing internal haemorrhaging. Most marine life in the area, however, should not be adversely affected.

British fishermen believe vast numbers of fish are being killed and are meeting Dutch officials to voice their concerns. They are also to send dead fish caught in their nets for laboratory examination. Tom Brown, secretary of Thanet Fishermen’s Association, said his members complained it was like “fishing in a graveyard” after the pulse trawlers had been in the area. “What they don’t catch, they annihilate,” he said. “Virtually everything is dead.”

Jeff Loveland, who owns two fishing boats in Ramsgate, which mainly catch Dover sole and skate, said: “This is absolutely devastating for us because we never caught so many fish that [were] already dead.

“You can have as many as 50 dead Dover sole in an hour and a half. We would hardly ever see a dead fish before.”

The crews believe that repeated exposure to the minor shocks is killing the fish.

Loveland said about seven Dutch trawlers were fishing off the Kent coast using pulse nets. He said: “It is a waste of time going to that area now. It stinks of dead fish.”

Fishing crews in Essex have similar concerns. Roger Free, a fisherman from West Mersea, said many of the dead fish he had pulled up in the area were juveniles. He is convinced the Dutch trawlers are to blame.


“I have fished there for 30 years and have never seen anything like it. I think the [electric] pulse is killing the food in the sea bed,” he said. “Three years ago, I caught 40 tons of sole in those grounds in one year. It was the best year we’ve ever had. There is nothing there now that I can catch.”

The fishermen are concerned that there are inadequate checks on the power being used to shock the fish.

Electrical beam trawling was extensively used in the East China Sea in the 1990s to catch shrimp, with 10,000 trawlers equipped with the pulse equipment. There were, however, few controls on the amount of power being used and it was subsequently banned for damaging the shrimp population and injuring other marine life.

In 2007 the European Union agreed to permit pulse trawlers on an experimental basis, but with a lower voltage than that deployed in the East China Sea. Two years later, the Dutch started commercial trials and they are now lobbying for the technology to be approved for wider use.

European research has confirmed the potential damage to fish. One report for the Dutch government revealed that out of 20 cod subjected to the shock treatment at close range, four died and x-rays showed four others had vertebral fractures with haemorrhages.

The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea said in a report published in 2009 that more research was required on which species of fish could be harmed and the various voltages that were being used. It warned: “The gear could inflict increased mortality on target and non-target species that contact the gear, but are not retained.”

Dutch officials said the latest advice from the European commission’s scientific committee said the technology reduced mortality in the target species and had a reduced impact on habitats compared with traditional trawling.

Thijs van Son, a Dutch government spokesman, said: “Research shows less damage, compared with the traditional beam trawl.” He confirmed Dutch officials would meet British fishermen this week to discuss their concerns.

EU pays £500m for right to plunder African stocks

The European Union has spent more than £500m in the past six years buying up fishing rights for its subsidised trawler fleet to “plunder” dwindling stocks from the developing world.

The European fleet has devastated its own fishing grounds so the EU pays foreign governments to allow its fleet to pursue their depleted stocks. The deals account for about a quarter of the EU catch.

Neil Parish, a Conservative MP and a former MEP, said: “These deals — funded with taxpayers’ money — are morally wrong. It is depleting the stocks and taking away the fish from locals.”

Since 2000, the EU has spent more than £100m a year on fishing access agreements, despite a United Nations estimate that more than 80% of fish stocks are fully exploited, overexploited or depleted. Most of the money has gone to African countries.

The biggest beneficiaries are the Spanish. French and Dutch trawlers also benefit, but few if any are from Britain.

In Mauritania, west Africa, the EU pays the government up to £70m a year. Locals say their catches have been decimated.

Greenpeace has calculated that a European super-trawler can catch and process in one day the amount of fish that 50 traditional fishing boats would take in a year.

Willie Mackenzie, oceans campaigner for Greenpeace, said: “The EU is simply exporting its overfishing problem. With 70% of European stocks overfished, we are sending industrial- scale vessels to plunder fish from African seas and the Indian Ocean.”

The EU has fisheries partnership agreements with 12 countries.