Publications

Science, subsidies and the politics of the pulse trawl ban in the European Union

Kraan, Marloes; Groeneveld, Rolf; Pauwelussen, Annet; Haasnoot, Tim; Bush, Simon R.

Summary

The decision to ban the pulse trawl by the European Parliament in early 2019 was influenced by public debate over its scientific and political legitimacy. In their 2019 paper in Marine Policy, Le Manach et al. continued this debate by making three claims. First, that the pulse trawl has substantial negative social and environmental impacts. Second, that it received ‘illegal’ subsidies from the European Union amounting to €20.8 million. And third, that the Dutch government and industry did not provide adequate transparency in the allocation of subsidies. These claims are misleading and, in some instances, demonstrably false: the ongoing science on the effects of the pulse trawl shows relatively positive impacts; following the conventional definitions of “harmful” and “fisheries subsidies” in the economic literature, harmful subsidies provided to pulse trawling only amount to €0.3 million, or less than 2% of Le Manach et al.‘s estimate; and there is no evidence of intentional non-disclosure of information related to the distribution of subsidies by the Dutch government. Finally, we reflect on the consequences of the inaccuracies presented by Le Manach et al. in the governance of fishing gear innovation and their wider effect on the legitimacy of advocacy-based science.