Mike Hookem MEP Blasts the European Commission for Trying to Relax Rules on Electro-Pulse Fishing


MEP accuses commission of ignoring its own scientific advisors in the pursuit of profits over the marine ecology and damage to small-scale fishers

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Image:www.mike-hookem.org

Monday 15th January 2018

UKIP fisheries spokesman, Mike Hookem MEP, has blasted the European Commission for “breaking its commitments to environmental and economic stability” in the fishing sector; accusing the unelected body of, “ignoring its own science on seabed ecology to chase profits for one interest group.”

In a speech to the European Parliament this evening, Mr Hookem blamed Dutch vessels using electro-pulse fishing methods for "breaking the backs of cod; eradicating molluscs and gastropod; causing internal bleeding in fish, and leaving the marine environment, a desert,” while calling for a complete ban on the practice.

“If the stated aims of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP),” questioned Mr Hookem, "are to ensure that fishing and aquaculture activities are environmentally and economically sustainable, then why are we proposing to relax the rules on electro-pulse fishing."

“To relax the rules on electro-pulse fishing would be nothing more than the pursuit of profit for one interest group, at the expense of many small-scale fishers," the MEP later commented.

The electro-pulse fishing technique is practised by mainly Dutch vessels in British waters and produces an electrical field on the seabed while dragging a net to catch the ‘stunned’ fish.

However, fishers across Europe have blamed the electro-pulse method for serious damage to the marine ecology, saying, there is growing scientific and empirical evidence that electro-pulse fishing is damaging not only target fish stocks, put the whole ecology of the seabed. The technique is already banned in China, Brazil and the USA.

In his speech, Mr Hookem outlined how despite an EU wide ban on all fishing methods using electric, explosive and poisons being in place since 1998; the European Commission had granted “experimental” derogations, despite warnings not to do so from their own scientific advisors, leading to his claims of "putting profits above the ecology."

Mr Hookem also attacked Dutch claims that electro-pulse fishing is more environmentally friendly, saying, “In recent weeks, we have seen a lot of propaganda outlining the supposed environmental credentials of electro-pulse fishing.”

“But the fact is, little independent, non-partisan science has been completed. In the thirteen studies conducted since electro-pulse was allowed, only three have looked at the effects on the marine environment. These three studies showed that 50-70% of the large cod caught with electricity had their spine broken and internal haemorrhages; that the survival rate of undersized discarded fish is minimal; and that electric currents may result in a weakened immune system for invertebrates.”

“As for Dutch claims that electro-pulse fishing is better for the seabed, this is also a fallacy!”

“Rather than gliding above the seabed; pulse trawls are heavy rigs that penetrate the sediment by six centimetres, with electrodes blasting 50 volts of electricity at an intensity of 60 amps, killing everything in their path. 

The fact is, other than a small reduction in overall fuel usage; there is no environmental benefit.”

“It is for all these reasons that I wrote to every British MEP last week outlining why we must not be misled by these false claims; which could lead to the destruction of the marine environment on the UK’s south coast and send many small-scale fishers into bankruptcy.

“It is time to put party and Brexit allegiances aside and stand together to tackle the challenge that fishing this destructive technique pose to British fishing business,” added the Yorkshire & North Lincolnshire MEP.

“If MEPs put the marine environment above Dutch profits, and truly care about the economic and social benefit of fishing to Britain and the whole of Europe; then it is lunacy not to support my amendment to ban the destructive practice of electro-pulse fishing.”

However, Mr Hookem criticism was not only limited to the European Commission. Speaking of the Government’s position “to determine an appropriate approach in accordance with international scientific assessment,” Mr Hookem said, “maybe Michael Gove and George Eustice should leave their comfy offices to get out and speak to British fishers who are affected by electro-pulse fishing?

“Fishers tell me that many of their traditional fishing grounds are lifeless since the Dutch electro-pulse trawlers moved in and that they are struggling for their very survival. Many of these small businesses can’t wait for science to be established in this area. Without immediate help, many of them will go to the wall, taking their supply and sales chain with them, further damaging struggling coastal communities. 

“The situation is critical, and if the Government do not stand up to the European Commission on this issue, then little small-scale fishing will remain in the UK.

Notes

Text of Mr Hookem’s Speech:

If the stated aims of the common fisheries policy are to ensure that fishing and aquaculture activities are environmentally and economically sustainable, then why are we proposing to relax the rules on electro-pulse fishing?

Electro-pulse is a technique that is blamed for breaking the backs of cod; eradicating molluscs and gastropod; causing internal bleeding, and leaving the marine environment, “a desert.”

Already banned in China for being too damaging to the ecology – electro-pulse fishing must now also be outlawed as per the 1998 EU ban on fishing with electricity, explosives and poisons.

In recent weeks, we have seen a lot of propaganda outlining the supposed environmental credentials of electro-pulse fishing.

But the fact is, little independent, non-partisan science has been completed!

In the thirteen studies conducted since electro-pulse was allowed, only three have looked at the effects on the marine environment.

These three studies showed that:

50-70% of the large cod caught with electricity had their spine broken and internal haemorrhages.

That the survival rate of undersized discarded fish is very small.

And that electric currents may result in a weakened immune system for invertebrates. 

As for the claim that electro-pulse fishing is better for the seabed, this is also a fallacy!

Rather than gliding above the seabed; pulse trawls are heavy rigs that penetrate the sediment by six centimetres, with electrodes blasting 50 volts of electricity at an intensity of 60 amps, killing everything in their path.

The fact is, other than a small reduction in overall fuel usage; there is no environmental benefit.

Yet, there is growing empirical and anecdotal evidence that electro-pulse fishing is doing catastrophic damage to Europe’s marine environments, fishers, and fishing communities.

So, I urge you, if you put the marine environment above profit, and care about the economic and social benefit of fishing to whole of Europe; then please support my amendment to ban the destructive practice of electro-pulse fishing. 

British Government position on Electro-pulse fishing:

“UK position on pulse beam trawls is to determine an appropriate approach in accordance with international scientific assessment, and not to allow expansion of the method in terms of numbers of vessels over 5% of each Member State’s beam trawl fleet, or outside the current derogation area of the southern North Sea.”

 

 

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Article first uploaded 16 January - 2018
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