Pulse trawl fishing: characteristics of the electrical stimulation and the effect on behaviour and injuries of Atlantic cod

Research article published in ICES Journal of Marine Science. Authors:D. de Haan, J. E. Fosseidengen, P. G. Fjelldal, D. Burggraaf, and A. D. Rijnsdorp.


In the North Sea flatfish fishery, electric pulse trawls have been introduced to replace the conventional mechanical method. Pulse trawls reduce the fuel consumption, reduce adverse impact on the ecosystem but cause injuries in gadoids. We describe the design and electrical properties of pulse trawls currently in use and study the behavioural response and injuries in cod exposed to electrical pulses under controlled conditions. Pulse trawls operate at an average power of 0.7 kW m21 beam length and a duty cycle of 2%. The electric field is heterogeneous with highest field strength occurring close to the conductors. Cod were exposed to three different pulse types for a range of field strengths, frequencies, and duty cycles. Two size classes were tested representing cod that escape through the meshes (11–17 cm) and market-sized cod that are retained in the net (34–56 cm). Cod exposed to a field strength of ≥37 V m21 responded by moderate-to-strong muscular contractions. Some of the large cod (n ¼ 260) developed haemorrhages and fractures in the spine, and haemal and neural arches in the tail part of the body. The probability of injuries increased with field strength and decreased when frequencywas increased from 100 to 180 Hz. None of the small cod (n ¼ 132)were injured and all survived. The field strength at the lateral boundaries of the trawl was too low to inflict injuries in cod.