Brexit: Nicki Holmyard on 'devastating' impact on fisheries
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Despite the EU’s claims of protecting environmental standards, the Dutch fishing fleet has been found to have manipulated data in order to obtain more licences for its fleet to ravage the North Sea. An investigation found the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries had withheld vital fleet information in order to fish the North Sea between 2015 to 2017. Due to this, up to 84 Dutch vessels were allowed to use electrified fishing nets in order to stun and catch fish – a practice banned from July 1 this year.
Such is the misuse of information, Dutch politicians have criticised the government of misleading the EU Commission.
According to Dutch TV channel NOS, the national government was “creative” with key data in order to keep the EU Commission in the dark.
This allowed vessels to continue a fishing technique which Greenpeace reports turns the seabed into a “graveyard”.
Fishing with electricity had been banned in 1998 but since 2007, fishing with electrode nets is allowed on a scientific basis.
Social Democratic deputy Joris Thijssen, said: “The European Commission has been knowingly misled into obtaining a few more licenses in the short term.
“There is a structural failure in the ministry.”
The use of electrode nets targets fish at the seafloor such as sole and can harm other species which were not intended to be caught.
The Deep Blue Seas report in 2020, said: “Studies demonstrate the highly destructive nature of this fishing method, causing fractured spines in non-target fish, weakening the immune systems of worms and shrimp and reducing hatching rates of cod eggs.
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“Though little is known about the long term impacts of ecosystems following a period of electric pulse trawling, British fishers have compared the North Sea to a ‘graveyard’ in areas recently pulse trawled.”
The Dutch government has claimed the technique, however, allows smaller fish to be discarded and emits less carbon dioxide.
Due to the alleged misuse of data, the Dutch fleet’s initial allocation of licences was increased from just 22.
The investigation by journalists was centred on the discovery of documents received from the Dutch government under the country’s Transparency Law.
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A ministry spokesperson told the channel that issues surrounding the internal data had not been properly addressed.
They said: “Everything has turned against us.
“The internal signals that something was wrong were not sufficiently addressed.”
Fishing organisations in the country also claimed they had not participated in the discussions between the EU Commission and the government.
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Pim Visser, director of the trawling association said: “We receive the permits from the Government and we have always respected the quotas.
“We have acted in good faith.”
Additional reporting by Maria Ortega.
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