The Netherlands has a well developed and large scale fishing industry out of all proportion to the size of her own economic waters. Its success depends on taking fish from the waters of other EU states.
However, there are two problems with this. One is that the boat's engine power must be used to drag the beams and shoes, or rock-hopper otter-trawls, over the seabed. The other is that the North Sea and the British coast are heavy with shipwrecks, many torpedoed in two wars, sunken warships or just casualties of the sea. As we hobby sea fishers know, wrecks are a rich haven for big fish because bottom trawlers can't come near them.
Pulse or stun fishing uses suspended electrodes to stun groundfish into the water column where they are scooped up by trawl nets. Catch volumes are greater, fuel costs are halved and the marine sanctuaries around wrecks are no longer protected. It's like fishing a lake using gelignite. It was outlawed in the EU in 1998. But the EU is deeply corrupt and open to the influence of wealthy actors; in 2009 the EU allowed 5% of beam trawlers to be converted, and the Dutch immediately converted five boats. Since then almost a hundred more Dutch boats have been converted - using a weak and contrived workaround that avoids the ban.
The effects are catastrophic. An inshore fisherman last week posted on FB
"It is widely believed that thousands of immature fish are dying as a result of this electric shock being passed through them but no evidence has been put forward to support this. The reasons for this are very simple, the majority of immature fish will just get washed through the net never to be seen again. The other reason being the fact that the only research being carried out is by the Dutch themselves and everybody knows that money talks.One current problem is that Dutch boats can fly the red duster and take UK quotas; the previous requirement on UK flagged vessels being owned by Brit nationals was overturned. Our 1988 Merchant Shipping Act was challenged by the European Court of Justice in the Factortame case and overturned - requiring us to register foreign-owned fishing boats. A single Dutch owned and crewed vessel, the Cornelis Vrolijk, but UK flagged, accounts for almost a quarter of the entire English catch and about 6 per cent of the total UK quota. It lands all catches - some £17m annually - in the Netherlands.
"Even if it was proved that this method of fishing was not killing all the immature fish, it is highly likely to be killing all the food that the fish rely on to survive such as prawns, shrimps, small crab, worms. If it was proved that it did not damage these species it would for sure kill the even smaller marine life that they rely on.
"I know from experience that once the seabed has been subjected to the electric shock treatment there is no point in me fishing there. I might as well fish in the desert because I would have more chance of finding life. Even when left alone for several months there is nothing there. To me it is pretty obvious why, nothing is going to hang around in a place where they will starve.
"The Inshore Belgian fishermen are appalled by what the Dutch are doing, Belgian fishermen I have spoken to have never in their lives at sea seen such a drastic reduction in fish numbers as they have once an area has had pulse fishing activity on it. It is the same story in France, the catches there have reduced so much that they plan to blockade all the Channel Ferry ports on the 27th of November to highlight the problems being caused by the Dutch."
So a plea. If you are delayed in any way today by the French fishing boats blockading the channel ports, spare them your good wishes and your hopes for a prosperous year. They are fighting the same fight as our inshore boats. This time, we're on the same side.