The Netherlands have championed a technique for fishing which uses electric shocks to lure fish into their nets. It is called electric pulse fishing. The Dutch state (and fishing lobby) maintains that this technique is superior to traditional beam trawl fishing, because:

  • It's less damaging to the seabed (does not scrape as much)
  • It is more fuel efficient, because there's less resistance from the nets. According to a lobby group, the fuel saving are 75% percent.
  • Gives a better yield

Given these arguments, the question is raised whether it is correct to ban electric pulse fishing, but not beam trawl fishing.

Is electric pulse fishing ecologically less harmful than traditional beam trawl fishing?

The Dutch claims are substantiated by Dutch research from Wageningen University, kindly offering their findings in English and French. Strikingly, exactly the people likely to consume information in these languages are staunchly opposed to this manner of fishing, namely the United Kingdom and France respectively. France has led a bitter campaign against electric pulse fishing, spearheaded by the French NGO Bloom. This campaign has ultimately led to an EU-wide total ban on pulse trawl fishing. One of the first actions the UK took after leaving the EU was to impose a ban on pulse trawl fishing.

According to Bloom, electric pulse fishing is very harmful and this is why it is banned in most countries:

China, which used it in the 90s, banned it in 2000 because of its uncontrollable nature and serious harmful effects on bio- diversity and targeted shrimp populations.

This seems to imply that the alternative is less harmful.

  • I guess you're right about the definition, tried to minimise this in the first paragraph. Any sentence with words could theoretically degrade in a definition spiral. But I feel like the central point is somewhat clear. Jul 1, 2021 at 11:21
  • It seems that you're positing that political motivations cannot be subjected to scientific rigor. Feels like a cop-out, because this issue could be approached rather technocratically. Or described on a meta-level: I just don't understand clearly what the motivations are to ban electric pulse fishing, and would like to understand it better. But I agree maybe the issue might be too thorny to even be answered well (approaching objective truth) in a Q&A format. Jul 1, 2021 at 11:24
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    Let's focus this question down on one specific, empirically-testable claim. Don't ask "Why do <X> think this?" or "Are the Dutch trying to secretly do this?" because that is a question of motivations. We also can't give subjective answers to implied questions like "Does the benefit of <less seabed scraping> outweigh the risk of <damage to non-target species>?" What is the claim that is testable?
    – Oddthinking
    Jul 1, 2021 at 14:58
  • Thank you, don't you think the following claim is testable? 'Electric pulse fishing is broadly less harmful than traditional beam trawl fishing'. I agree the question content could be redacted (reduced) thoroughly. I got a bit ahead of myself researching it this morning. Jul 1, 2021 at 17:47
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    You've already hinted at reasons why that isn't testable. If beam trawl fishing destroys sea-bed habitats of creatures unrelated to the target species while electric pulse fishing kills juvenile fish that would otherwise pass through the nets and be caught when older, which is worse? [Note: I have no opinion on the accuracy of these claims - this post was the first I heard of either.] Such a decision is subjective, based on how you value biodiversity, future markets and current income.
    – Oddthinking
    Jul 1, 2021 at 18:01


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