DUTCH pulse fishermen have agreed not to operate around sensitive areas of the English coast in a voluntary but landmark deal with local inshore fishermen.
Both sides say the move is without prejudice to any future evidence based policies which may be adopted by the authorities, or further voluntary agreements.
Pulse fishing is a technique being developed by the Dutch, where trawlers use nets that generate an electric current. Fish – particularly sole – are stunned, which forces them to float upwards, making them easier to catch.
It is not without controversy and the European parliament voted yesterday to ban it, although legislation is not guaranteed.
Campaigners, such as the French conservation group Bloom, have been leading the move to have it stopped. Critics say it kills fish and marine life other than sole and is like putting a Taser into the water.
Speaking about the deal with Dutch fishermen, NFFO (National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations) chief executive Barrie Deas said: ‘It seemed worthwhile to see if a voluntary agreement could be reached quickly, with the people most affected in the room, to ensure that the closed areas are in the right place and at the right time.
‘The Dutch fishermen have responded positively so we have taken a small step forward. I think that it is important not to oversell this agreement.
‘I hope that will help a bit but it is without prejudice to any government policies that might be adopted in the future on the basis of scientific advice.’
Pim Visser, CEO of the Dutch Organisation VisNed, said: ‘We recognise that pulse fishing is new and controversial and has led to changes in the spatial distribution and intensity of fishing in some areas.
‘An enormous amount of scientific work has been undertaken and is being undertaken to measure the effects of pulse fishing.
‘We also acknowledge the concerns of fishermen on the English side, although in my own view much of what has been said is wildly alarmist.
‘Whilst these scientific studies are being undertaken, and as a goodwill gesture, we met with the inshore fishermen from Ramsgate, the Thames Estuary, Orford and Lowestoft, in London.
‘It was a very constructive meeting and the English fishermen put forward a number of concrete proposals. The result is we are prepared to accept the closed areas suggested by the fishermen.’
Picture: NFFO chief executive Barrie Deas