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.


Microsoft tops $1 trillion as it predicts more cloud growth

Updated 35 min 8 sec ago
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Microsoft tops $1 trillion as it predicts more cloud growth

BENGALURU/SAN FRANCISCO: Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday briefly topped $1 trillion in value for the first time after executives predicted continued growth for its cloud computing business.
The Redmond, Washington-based company beat Wall Street estimates for quarterly profit and revenue, powered by an unexpected boost in Windows revenue and brisk growth in its cloud business which has reached tens of billions of dollars in sales.
Microsoft shares rose 4.4% to $130.54 in late trading after the forecast issued on a conference call with investors, pushing the company ahead of Apple Inc’s $980 billion market capitalization. The companies and Amazon.com Inc. have taken turns in recent months to rank as the world’s most valuable US-listed company.
Microsoft’s stock has gained about 23% gain so far this year, after hitting a record high of $125.85 during regular trading hours.
Under Chief Executive Satya Nadella, the company has spent the past five years shifting from reliance on its once-dominant Windows operating system to selling cloud-based services.
Azure, Microsoft’s flagship cloud product, competes with market leader Amazon Web Services (AWS) to provide computing power to businesses.
Growth in that unit slowed to 73% in the third quarter ended March 31 from 76% in the second quarter. Mike Spencer, Microsoft’s head of investor relations, said the decline was roughly in line with the company’s estimate.
Christopher Eberle, a senior equity analyst with Nomura, said that with Azure, “one should assume a slower rate of growth as we move forward, simply due to the law of large numbers.” Still, Azure will bring in $13.5 billion in sales in fiscal 2019 with an overall growth rate of 75%, he estimated. “I can’t name another company of that scale growing at these rates.”
Microsoft tops tech rivals such as Amazon in market capitalization on some days despite having less revenue, partly because most of its sales is to businesses, which tend to be steadier customers than consumers. A growing proportion of Microsoft’s software sales are billed as recurring subscription purchases, which are more reliable than one-time purchases.
Microsoft’s earnings per share of $1.14 beat expectations of $1 according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
Windows licensing revenue from computer makers grew 9% year over year, beating expectations after a 5% decline in the previous quarter. Spencer said a shortage of Intel Corp. processor chips for PCs that many analysts expected to last into this summer had been resolved earlier than expected, allowing PC makers to ship more machines.
Microsoft’s “commercial cloud” revenue — which includes business use of Azure, Office 365 and LinkedIn — was $9.6 billion this quarter, up 41% from the previous year but down slightly from the 48% growth rate the previous quarter.
Microsoft’s so-called “intelligent cloud” unit, which contains its Azure services, posted revenue of $9.65 billion, above Wall Street estimates of $9.28 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv. Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood said that unit could reach $11.05 billion in revenue in the fiscal fourth quarter.
The “productivity and business process” unit that includes both Office as well as social network LinkedIn had $10.2 billion revenue versus expectations of $10.05 billion.
Microsoft’s latest results contained two weak spots.
Its gaming revenue was up only 5% versus 8% the quarter before, which Spencer attributed to less revenue from third-party game developers and the fact that many gamers are delaying purchases of Microsoft’s Xbox console because a new model is expected soon.
Sales of the company’s Surface hardware grew 21% versus 39% the quarter before, also because customers waited for updated hardware they expected to be released soon.
Total revenue rose 14% to $30.57 billion, beating analysts’ average estimate of $29.84 billion according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
Net income rose to $8.81 billion, or $1.15 per share, from $7.42 billion, or 96 cents per share, a year earlier.