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

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.


Electric luxury vehicles, SUVs ‘more likely to cause accidents’

Updated 43 min 49 sec ago

Electric luxury vehicles, SUVs ‘more likely to cause accidents’

  • As EV sales rise, French insurer AXA warns that drivers are struggling to adapt to cars’ rapid acceleration

LONDON: Electric luxury cars and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) may be 40 percent more likely to cause accidents than their standard engine counterparts, possibly because drivers are still getting used to their quick acceleration, French insurer AXA said.

The numbers, based on initial trends from claims data and not statistically significant, also suggest small and micro electric cars are slightly less likely to cause accidents than their combustion engine counterparts, AXA said at a crash test demonstration on Thursday.

AXA regularly carries out crash tests for vehicles. This year’s tests, which took place at a disused airport, focused on electric cars.

Overall accident rates for electric vehicles are about the same as for regular cars, according to liability insurance claims data for “7,000 year risks” — on 1,000 autos on the road for seven years — said Bettina Zahnd, head of accident research and prevention at AXA Switzerland.

“We saw that in the micro and small-car classes slightly fewer accidents are caused by electric autos. If you look at the luxury and SUV classes, however, we see 40 percent more accidents with electric vehicles,” Zahnd said.

“We, of course, have thought about what causes this and acceleration is certainly a topic.”

Electric cars accelerate not only quickly, but also equally strongly no matter how high the revolutions per minute, which means drivers can find themselves going faster than they intended.

FASTFACT

Accident rates among luxury and SUV electric vehicles are 40 percent higher than for their combustion engine counterparts.

Half of electric car drivers in a survey this year by AXA had to adjust their driving to reflect the new acceleration and braking characteristics.

“Maximum acceleration is available immediately, while it takes a moment for internal combustion engines with even strong horsepower to reach maximum acceleration. That places new demands on drivers,” Zahnd said.

Sales of electric cars are on the rise as charging infrastructure improves and prices come down.

Electric vehicles accounted for less than 1 percent of cars on the road in Switzerland and Germany last year, but made up 1.8 percent of Swiss new car sales, or 6.6 percent including hybrids, AXA said.

Accidents with electric cars are just about as dangerous for people inside as with standard vehicles, AXA said. The cars are subject to the same tests and have the same passive safety features such as airbags and seatbelts.

But another AXA survey showed most people do not know how to react if they come across an electric vehicle crash scene.

While most factors are the same — securing the scene, alerting rescue teams and providing first aid — it said helpers should also try to ensure the electric motor is turned off. This is particularly important because unlike an internal combustion engine the motor makes no noise. In serious crashes, electric autos’ high-voltage power plants automatically shut down, AXA noted, but damaged batteries can catch fire up to 48 hours after a crash, making it more difficult to deal with the aftermath of
an accident.

For one head-on crash test on Thursday, AXA teams removed an electric car’s batteries to reduce the risk of them catching fire, which could create intense heat and toxic fumes.

Zahnd said that studies in Europe had not replicated US findings that silent electric vehicles are as much as two-thirds more likely to cause accidents with pedestrians or cyclists.

She said the jury was still out on how crash data would affect the cost of insuring electric versus standard vehicles, noting this always reflected factors around both driver and car.

“If I look around Switzerland, there are lots of insurers that even give discounts for electric autos because one would like to promote electric cars,” she said.