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.


US says conserving oil is no longer an economic imperative

Updated 19 August 2018
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US says conserving oil is no longer an economic imperative

  • Fears of oil scarcity no longer driver of US energy policy
  • Surging shale production brings energy abundance

WASHINGTON: Conserving oil is no longer an economic imperative for the US, the Trump administration declares in a major new policy statement that threatens to undermine decades of government campaigns for gas-thrifty cars and other conservation programs.
The position was outlined in a memo released last month in support of the administration’s proposal to relax fuel mileage standards. The government released the memo online this month without fanfare.
Growth of natural gas and other alternatives to petroleum has reduced the need for imported oil, which “in turn affects the need of the nation to conserve energy,” the Energy Department said. It also cites the now decade-old fracking revolution that has unlocked US shale oil reserves, giving “the United States more flexibility than in the past to use our oil resources with less concern.”
With the memo, the administration is formally challenging old justifications for conservation — even congressionally prescribed ones, as with the mileage standards. The memo made no mention of climate change. Transportation is the single largest source of climate-changing emissions.
President Donald Trump has questioned the existence of climate change, embraced the notion of “energy dominance” as a national goal, and called for easing what he calls burdensome regulation of oil, gas and coal, including repealing the Obama Clean Power Plan.
Despite the increased oil supplies, the administration continues to believe in the need to “use energy wisely,” the Energy Department said, without elaboration. Department spokesmen did not respond Friday to questions about that statement.
Reaction was quick.
“It’s like saying, ‘I’m a big old fat guy, and food prices have dropped — it’s time to start eating again,’” said Tom Kloza, longtime oil analyst with the Maryland-based Oil Price Information Service.
“If you look at it from the other end, if you do believe that fossil fuels do some sort of damage to the atmosphere ... you come up with a different viewpoint,” Kloza said. “There’s a downside to living large.”
Climate change is a “clear and present and increasing danger,” said Sean Donahue, a lawyer for the Environmental Defense Fund.
In a big way, the Energy Department statement just acknowledges the world’s vastly changed reality when it comes to oil.
Just 10 years ago, in summer 2008, oil prices were peaking at $147 a barrel and pummeling the global economy. OPEC was enjoying a massive transfer of wealth, from countries dependent on imported oil. Prices now are about $65.
Today, the US is vying with Russia for the title of top world oil producer. US oil production hit an all-time high this summer, aided by the technological leaps of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing.
How much the US economy is hooked up to the gas pump, and vice versa, plays into any number of policy considerations, not just economic or environmental ones, but military and geopolitical ones, said John Graham, a former official in the George W. Bush administration, now dean of the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University.
“Our ability to play that role as a leader in the world is stronger when we are the strongest producer of oil and gas,” Graham said. “But there are still reasons to want to reduce the amount we consume.”
Current administration proposals include one that would freeze mileage standards for cars and light trucks after 2020, instead of continuing to make them tougher.
The proposal eventually would increase US oil consumption by 500,000 barrels a day, the administration says. While Trump officials say the freeze would improve highway safety, documents released this month showed senior Environmental Protection Agency staffers calculate the administration’s move would actually increase highway deaths.
“American businesses, consumers and our environment are all the losers under his plan,” said Sen. Tom Carper, a Delaware Democrat. “The only clear winner is the oil industry. It’s not hard to see whose side President Trump is on.”
Administration support has been tepid to null on some other long-running government programs for alternatives to gas-powered cars.
Bill Wehrum, assistant administration of the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, spoke dismissively of electric cars — a young industry supported financially by the federal government and many states — this month in a call with reporters announcing the mileage freeze proposal.
“People just don’t want to buy them,” the EPA official said.
Oil and gas interests are campaigning for changes in government conservation efforts on mileage standards, biofuels and electric cars.
In June, for instance, the American Petroleum Institute and other industries wrote eight governors, promoting the dominance of the internal-combustion engine and questioning their states’ incentives to consumers for electric cars.
Surging US and gas production has brought on “energy security and abundance,” Frank Macchiarola, a group director of the American Petroleum Institute trade association, told reporters this week, in a telephone call dedicated to urging scrapping or overhauling of one US program for biofuels.
Fears of oil scarcity used to be a driver of US energy policy, Macchiarola said.
Thanks partly to increased production, “that pillar has really been rendered essentially moot,” he said.