Dutch shocked by call to ban EU electric pulse fishing

A fisherman on the Dutch fishing boat TX-38 Branding IV prepares the electric pulse fishing nets during departure from the harbor of Den Helder. The European Parliament has called for a ban on electric pulse fishing in the EU, defying Brussels which wants the experimental practice in the North Sea done on a larger scale. (AFP)
Updated 21 January 2018
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Dutch shocked by call to ban EU electric pulse fishing

AMSTERDAM: The black clouds hanging over the boats in Dutch ports Friday were not the remnants of wild winter gales, but harbingers of another devastating storm brewing for Dutch fishermen.
On Tuesday, the European Parliament struck what may prove to be the death knell for some of the Dutch fishing fleet by demanding a ban on electric pulse fishing.
For the Dutch, who invented this experimental method of trawling the North Sea for fish, the decision came as a bombshell, spelling likely catastrophe.
In the northern village of Urk, Andries de Boer, a third generation fisherman, said he like many others now faced an uncertain future after investing heavily to equip their boats with the technology.
On the western coast, in the bustling port of Scheveningen near The Hague, his colleague Anton Dekker said he was “bewildered and extremely disappointed” by “this injustice.”
Standing among the nets on his boat, his gaze was lost on the horizon as his crew prepared to head out into the cold North Sea for four days.
Pulse fishing involves dragging electrically charged lines just above the seafloor to shock marine life up from low-lying positions into trawling nets.
EU rules allow member states to equip up to five percent of their fleets with electrodes, and the method has been adopted in particular by Dutch vessels fishing for sole.
Some 84 Dutch boats use the practice, alongside just three Belgian vessels, representing 0.1 percent of the total European fishing fleet.
“Sole is a fish which hides under 10 centimeters of sand during the day. By sending out these little electric pulses, they come out of the sand and bingo, they’re in the net,” said Dekker.
“When you’ve been working for years to improve the environment and CO2 emissions, to catch fewer unwanted or small fish, and you’ve reached your goal — which is what we believe — to then see it reduced to nothing, is terrible,” said de Boer bitterly.

In Urk, a 10th century village which used to be an island in Flevoland, fishermen have spent hundreds of thousands of euros after having won the go-ahead from the EU on an experimental basis.
But MEPs voted on Tuesday by 402 members to 232 in favor of the ban, while 40 abstained.
“It is a wonderful victory against a terribly harmful kind of fishing,” said Yannick Jadot, a French member of the Greens party, who took part in the campaign against the practice.
But Pim Visser, the head of the Dutch fisherman’s organization VisNed, said the campaign had been based on “half-truths, non-facts, insinuations and allegations.”
“It’s a scandal, and a blow,” he said, denying Jadot’s accusations by insisting there was no terrible environmental harm.
On the contrary, the Dutch fishermen said: “The seabed is less disturbed” than by more traditional methods of fishing for sole.
There is “no scientific basis for saying that electric fishing is not good,” he added.
Researcher Adriaan Rijnsdorp, from the University of Wageningen, agreed. He is due to complete a study of the environmental effects next year.
“It’s a very promising technique, which is important for limiting the damage which fishing inflicts on the ecosystem,” he told the NOS public broadcaster.
But the row has increasingly pitted the Netherlands against France — particularly after 200 top European chefs pledged to stop sourcing seafood obtained through electric pulse fishing.
“We refuse to work with seafood coming from a fishing method that condemns our future and that of the ocean,” the chefs said in a text written by two-star Michelin chef Christopher Coutanceau.
They alleged that electric trawlers “produce catches of poor quality, fish which underwent stress and are often marked by post-electrocution bruises.”
“It is impossible to work with such low-quality products.”
“Nonsense,” shot back Visser, insisting the Dutch were selling high-quality fish, and pointing to the beloved French delicacy of foie-gras, most often produced by force-feeding poultry to fatten their livers.
Tuesday’s vote was just one step in a long battle, with the EU parliament now trying to strike a compromise with the European Commission, the bloc’s executive, and the European Council, which groups the 28 member states.
Dutch fishermen say if a total ban is adopted, then they will need to use 40 million liters of diesel more a year to drag heavier nets, which will cut their revenues by some 20 percent.


Saudi oil refinery in Gwadar to help Islamabad save $3 billion a year

Updated 17 February 2019
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Saudi oil refinery in Gwadar to help Islamabad save $3 billion a year

  • The refinery would produce up to 300,000 barrels per day once completed
  • Saudi Arabia is also setting up reservoirs for liquified natural gas in Pakistan, says Petroleum Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan expects to agree a deal to build an oil refinery and petrochemical complex at the Balochistani deep-sea Port of Gwadar, during the first state-level visit by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The deal will see Pakistan join with Saudi Aramco to build the facility, expected to cost $10 billion.

“We are working on feasibility studies for the establishment of the oil refinery and petrochemical complex in Gwadar, and will be ready to start by early 2020,” Pakistan’s Minister for Petroleum Ghulam Sarwar Khan told Arab News on Thursday.

Once established, the project will help the South Asian nation cut its annual crude oil imports by up to $3 billion annually, in addition to creating thousands of job opportunities in the impoverished western province.

The country spends more than $16 billion each year on importing 26 million tons of petroleum products, including 800 million cubic feet of liquified natural gas (LNG) from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other Gulf countries.

Khan claimed the refinery would produce up to 300,000 barrels per day once completed.

“The Saudi authorities have asked us to complete all the initial work on the project on a fast track, as they want to set it up as early as possible,” he said.

A Saudi technical team, including Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih, has visited Gwadar twice in recent months to examine the site for the refinery, getting briefings from Pakistani officials on security in the area near the border with Iran.

“We will ensure complete security for Saudi investments and people working on the project. A detailed security plan has already been chalked up with help of the security agencies,” Khan added.

Pakistan currently has five oil refineries, but they can only satisfy half of its annual demand. Islamabad and Riyadh have long maintained strong ties, with the latter repeatedly offering the former financial assistance. Last year, the Kingdom guaranteed Pakistan $3 billion in foreign currency support for a year, and a further loan worth up to $3 billion in deferred payments for oil imports, to help stave off an economic crisis. The Islamic Republic also received $3 billion from the UAE to protect its foreign reserves.

Khan added that the Pakistani-Arab Refinery Co. (PARCO) was also setting up an oil refinery at Khalifa Point, near the city of Hub in Balochistan. 

“The work on this project is at an advanced stage. Land for it has been acquired and other formalities are being fulfilled,” he said.

Khan hopes the world’s perception of Pakistan will change upon completion of these deals, after years of war in the surrounding region. Exxon Mobil returned to Pakistan last month after 27 years, and started offshore drilling with $75 million of initial investments. 

“All results of the drilling are positive so far, and we expect huge oil and gas reserves to be discovered soon,” he said.

“More foreign companies are contacting us to invest in offshore drilling and exploration. Saudi Arabia is also setting up reservoirs for LNG in Pakistan. More Saudi investment will come to Pakistan with the passage of time.”