Report of the 2nd International Dialogue Meeting on Pulse Fisheries, 20 January 2017

This document is a report of the Second International Pulse Stakeholder Dialogue meeting hosted by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs in Amsterdam on 20 January 2017. The report contains the minutes of the plenary and open sessions. The people listed as authors of the report have made these minutes. Hence, this document does not have the status of a research report.

Participation and reporting was performed within the Policy Support Research programme (Beleidsondersteunend Onderzoek), theme ‘Sustainable fisheries -Pulse fisheries and landing obligation' of the Ministry. The dialogue meeting on pulse fisheries was organised in the context of the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs approach to engage in a more transparent and inclusive process concerning the benefits, questions and concerns about the development of pulse fisheries. Since the first international dialogue meeting in 2015, a multi-annual research programme into the impacts of flatfish pulse fishing has started. An International Science Advisory Committee (ISAC) has been established to examine the research process and the quality of science produced (peer review) and assist the scientists involved and the government to identify where gaps exists and address these in innovative ways. In addition, steps have been taken in relation to control and enforcement. Over 80 participants from 8 different countries attended the dialogue meeting. They represented government bodies, political parties, fishers, processors and traders, NGOs, standards holders and scientists. Discussions were held under Chatham House Rules and so is this report. During the meeting four parallel breakout sessions where held:

  1. Into the working of pulse fishing – transition beam/pulse and scale models (section 2.2.1)
  2. Setting the scene – research in hindsight and forecast (section 2.2.2)
  3. Control & Enforcement – lessons learnt and developments (section 2.2.3)
  4. Elaboration – Scope and regionalisation within EU – broader scope (section 2.2.4)

Key points, identified by ISAC

From the break out groups and plenary discussions, ISAC identified the following key points:

  1. A key question is when the scientific evidence is enough to move forward. Another workshop with a cross-section of people may be needed to address this question.
  2. What level of uncertainty and risk are we prepared to accept? It is important to ensure that legislation is flexible enough so that regulations can be undone when one gets it wrong.
  3. The way pulse fishing currently takes place in the Netherlands is a large experiment with a large fleet. It is important that scientists use this situation to maximise the opportunities the commercial fleet offers in collecting data.
  4. There is the issue of control and enforcement. The control and enforcement team seems comfortable they can deal with it, but there will always be an arms race. This question is whether this can be prevented and one can be confident about this.
  5. Innovation in the future should be possible. If the limits of the gears are set too hard, then this should not hamper further innovation and improvements.
  6. In relation to the question of animal welfare, it is important that the research informs the debate on how many fish are subjected to injury relative to fish that would die anyway, so that it is put in perspective.
  7. One has to be careful how to translate the science. For example, there is a question on whether or not pulse trawling drives fish away; fishing with a mechanical bottom-trawl, will cause mortality of benthos which increases food availability for fish. There is a point where science stops and politics comes in. What people see depends on their perspective and how they translate it.
  8. The Dutch industry wants to be innovative. It would be useful if the European Commission would develop a manual or guidelines about the type of information that needs to be collected. Without a protocol it is difficult to make an agreed decision.