Dutch Challenge EU Pulse Fishing Ban in Top Court

A woman walks by the entrance to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg on Oct. 5, 2015. (Geert Vanden Wijngaert, File)

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AFP) — The Netherlands said Wednesday it has asked the European Union’s top court to overturn a ban on electric pulse fishing that is due to come into effect across the bloc in 2021.

Dutch fishermen are the main users of the practice but their French counterparts have long railed against it, calling it unfair competition that leads to unsustainable stock depletions.

Dozens of top European chefs have also denounced the technique, in which electrically charged lines are dragged above the seafloor to shock sole and other low-lying fish upwards into nets.

Dutch Agriculture Minister Carola Schouten has filed an application with the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg for the annulation of the ban, she said in a letter to the lower house of parliament.

“The Council and European Parliament have breached several parts of Union law,” Schouten wrote.

“The ban on electric fishing was not based on the best available scientific opinions,” she said, adding that the ban harms “innovation and technological development.”

The European Parliament formally voted in April to outlaw pulse fishing in 2021, after the bloc’s 28 member states — the Council of the EU — had previously backed a ban.

But France officially banned it in August ahead of the EU-wide prohibition, meaning that Dutch vessels are already forbidden from using the practice in French territorial waters.

Fishermen in the Netherlands pioneered the technique and invested heavily in equipping their boats with the electrified lines, though only around 80 vessels were using the technique — a small fraction of the country’s fleet.

A decision by the ECJ could take years.

© Agence France Presse

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