Pulse fisheries in the Netherlands - Economic and spatial impact study

This study was carried out by Wageningen Economic Research and was commissioned and financed by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs within the context of the ‘verduurzaming visserij’ (improving the sustainability of fisheries) research theme of the Policy Support Research Tasks (project number BO-20-010-078).  Authors: M.N.J. Turenhout, B.W. Zaalmink, W.J. Strietman, K.G. Hamon

Fishing with pulse technique has brought about a significant change in Dutch fishing industry

The transition to pulse fisheries has brought about economic consequences. Since its introduction, there has also been a geographical displace in fishing areas.

The introduction of fishing with pulse technique has brought about a significant change in the Dutch fishing industry. From 2008 to 2014, 41 cutters switched from beam trawl fisheries to pulse fisheries, with a further 42 cutters making the transition in 2014. These cutters previously fished using the conventional beam trawl method.

This change is also clearly seen in terms of fishing effort. Whereas beam trawling still represented 77% of total effort in terms of horse power days in 2008, this percentage fell to 2% in 2014. During the same period, the fishing effort of the pulse method and SumWing method rose to 68%.

The transition from beam trawl fisheries to the cost-effective fisheries with pulse technique has made a significant contribution to the profitability of Dutch cutter fisheries. In 2014, for example, the net result of pulse fisheries amounted to approximately 17 million euros. Compare this to beam trawling, which just about broke even in the same year.

The transition to the pulse method has considerably reduced the fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of the cutter sector. In pulse trawling, fuel consumption per day at sea (>300 hp) is approximately 46% lower than in beam trawling.

The transition to pulse fisheries has also caused a displacement to occur in the areas of the North Sea in which the Dutch cutter fleet fish. There are two reasons for this. First, it is now possible to fish in areas that were previously avoided by beam trawl fishermen. These are mainly areas with softer ground. Second, fishing with pulse technique focuses more on sole, whereas fishing with beam trawl technique focuses more on plaice. These two types of fish can be found in different areas. The result is a westward displacement in fishing areas more towards the English coast and a concentration off the Dutch and Belgian coasts as far as Katwijk.

Increase in profitability and catch-based pay

Alongside positive results for the owners, the increase in profitability (higher catch proceeds and fuel savings) has also led to an increase in catch-based pay for the crew. In 2014, this increase amounted to approximately €30,000 per crew member per year.

Fishing with Pulse technique is particularly efficient when fishing for sole, as it enables much more profitable sole to be caught. When quotas for sole are inadequate, it is possible for these to be leased. There has therefore been a strong increase in demand for sole quotas and, consequently, in the lease price for these quotas. This price rose from 60 eurocents per kg in 2012 to €3.38 per kg in 2015. Although this higher lease price is affordable for the fisheries with pulse technique, it leads to financial problems for small-scale fisheries that normally lease an additional sole quota.


The request made by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs was to identify the importance of pulse fisheries for the Dutch fleet, what contribution it makes to the economic results of the cutter fleet and to what extent there have been displacements in fishing areas since fishing with pulse technique was introduced.

An analysis and description are given of the economic performance of the Dutch cutter fleet based on information provided by Wageningen University & Research’s Fisheries Accountancy Data Network. Additionally, the VIRIS database provides insight into the fishing areas and fishing periods per cutter and consequently reveals any displacements in fishing areas for the sector as a whole.