‘Definitely political!’ EU fisheries row erupts as Dutch say rules are in favour of French

France fishing row: Expert calls on EU to 'sort' issue

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Back in April, the Netherlands lost its fight against an EU-wide ban on electric pulse fishing after Europe’s top court said MEPs have wide discretion in making legislation. Pulse fishing was widely used in the Netherlands, which says the technique reduces unwanted bycatch and avoids ploughing nets along the seabed.

Seven months after the European Court of Justice’s (ECJ) decision to side with the EU Parliament, Dutch fishermen are still suffering from the economic effects of the ban.

And as the EU rule was strongly supported by France, they accuse Brussels of favouring French fishermen over Dutch.

Speaking to Express.co.uk, Durk van Tuinen of the Dutch Fishermen’s Union (Nederlandse Vissersbond) said the decision was “solely political”.

He blasted: “It was a political decision, of course.

“It was started by the French fishermen, they worked together with activists and an NGO called Blue.

“They started a political discussion.

“Initially, the European Commission in their concept of new technical measures said a discussion was okay and they could go further with it.

“But later, when the discussion moved to the European Parliament, it became purely political.

“And at that point, when the ground was solely political, Blue and French fishermen started a lobby.

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“But the point about French fishermen we tried to make is that we don’t even fish on the same ground as French fishermen when it comes to sole fisheries.

“Maybe just for a small part of the southern North Sea.

“But that was not even in the discussion, it was all politics.”

French fishermen and environmentalists say the technique – which uses electrodes to emit electric waves and stun fish which then float upwards and are scooped up by giant nets – deplete fish numbers.

The concerns prompted the European Parliament and the EU Council to agree to a ban in 2019, with a transitional period running to June 30 this year under certain strict conditions.

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The Netherlands subsequently took its grievance to the Luxembourg-based EU Court of Justice (CJEU) in 2019, arguing that lawmakers had not used the best scientific opinions to compare the environmental impact of pulse fishing and traditional beam trawling of North Sea sole.

Judges threw out the arguments.

The Court said: “The EU legislature has a wide discretion in this field and is not obliged to base its legislative choice on scientific and technical opinions only.

“Although the scientific and technical studies available contain, at times, divergent assessments of the extent of the negative impacts of electric pulse fishing, none of them states, contrary to what the Netherlands maintain, that this method has no negative impacts on the environment.”

The attack on France comes at a time the country is dealing with its own fishing battle against the UK over post-Brexit fishing rights in UK waters.

French President Emmanuel Macron had warned that Paris could block British boats from landing their catches in French ports and tighten customs checks in protest against what it claims is a refusal by the UK authorities to grant licences to French boats.

But France suspended the threats at the 11th hour as negotiations continued, a move welcomed by Britain.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK Government’s position had not changed and the UK would continue to work to resolve the disagreement.

Brexit minister Lord Frost and France’s Europe minister Clement Beaune are set to hold talks in Paris tomorrow.

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