French fishermen blockade Calais because of electric pulse fishing

A protest by French fishermen against pulse fishing caused Calais, France’s busiest passenger port, to impose delays for travellers and hauliers on both sides of the English Channel.

French fishermen blockaded the port of Calais on Thursday January 25th, with 12 fishing trawlers cutting off access to the quayside. The blockade was lifted at about 17:00 local time. The fishermen said they had been promised a meeting Friday with government officials to discuss their grievances. The fishermen allowed one ferry through towards England every hour.

Pulse fishing, which involves fitting nets with electrodes and pulling them above the seabed, sending shocks through the sediment and forcing the fish up out of the sand into the trawler’s nets, is a method widely used by Dutch vessels fishing for sole.

France says that the fishing method harms fish stocks, even though less than 1% of European trawlers use it.

Pulse fishing has become a large controversy in France and elsewhere, with 200 top European chefs boycotting fish netted using the technique.

European institutions do not agree on the matter, with the EU’s commissioner for fisheries arguing that the use of electric currents is safer for the environment than methods that plough up the seabed.

Under current EU rules, member states can equip up to 5% of their fleets with electrodes. Some 84 Dutch boats use the practice, alongside three Belgian vessels. This month the European Parliament defied Brussels, which wants to extend the practice, by calling for an outright ban.