The use of electrical pulses in sea-fishing is now banned in Belgian waters, Flemish minister for agricultural Koen Van den Heuvel has announced.
Fishing boats using the method send electrical pulses into the sea-bottom, which makes fish living in the sediment rise up and makes them easier to catch with trawler nets. However opponents argue that the fish can be injured, and the practice disturbs the sea-bottom to the detriment of other life in which the boats have no interest.
The practice has been banned in theory in the EU since 1998, but continues in the North Sea under a specific derogation, which is due to run out in 2021. Countries were given the possibility to adopt a voluntary ban from 14 August. Belgium, like France, has now anticipated the Europe-wide ban. Only Dutch boats will continue to use electricity from now on.
The practice is now banned in Belgian waters up to 12 miles (22.2km) from the coastline.
Meanwhile Belgian fishing boats are to take part in the internation Fishing for Litter action, which involves them bringing to land any rubbish they pick up in their nets, instead of dumping it back into the sea as at present. Boats will receive large rubbish bags from the Flemish fisheries cooperative which they can bring back to land, where the waste will be sorted and recycled where possible.
Since 2016, fishing boats have worked under an agreement where they engage to bring their own waste on land to be treated, and each boat signed up for that initiative pays a sum each year to the cooperative.
Fishing for Litter takes that one step further to include waste picked up in nets. “We’re taking an enormous step forward,” one crew member, Pedro Rappé, told the professional newsletter VILT. “The aim is for it to become a natural reflex for waste that doesn’t belong at sea to be sorted and brought to the dock at the end of a fishing trip.”
The project has the backing of the European, federal, Flemish and West Flanders authorities.