Pulse fishing

Scientists and fishing businesses are looking for more sustainable methods for catching flatfish and shrimp, and are therefore experimenting with pulse trawling. This method involves replacing the tickler chains by electrodes that emit electric pulses - the pulse trawl. Wageningen University & Research investigates the advantages and disadvantages of pulse fishing for marine ecosystems and the economy.

What is pulse fishing?

The traditional beam-trawl fishery for flatfish uses so-called tickler chains to startle fish like common sole and plaice and make them leap into the net. The chains are dragged over the seabed, disturbing the sediment and causing mortality of organisms in the trawl track. In the fishery using the pulse technique, the tickler chains have been replaced by electric pulses to make the flatfish leap into the net.

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Why is pulse fishing research important?

In recent years, pulse trawl fishing has only been allowed on the basis of a derogation for scientific research. This research maps the effects of pulse fishing on the ecosystem. In April 2019, the European Parliament decided to definitively ban pulse fishing, mostly on the basis of political and socio-economic considerations. Scientific research however remains important to demonstrate the ecological and economic advantages and disadvantages of innovative fishing techniques such as pulse fishing.

Scientific research into the economic and ecological advantages and disadvantages of fishing with pulse gear was then continued. In May 2020, ICES issued advice based on that scientific research. In the advice, ICES concludes that pulse fishing on sole in the North Sea scores better on relevant sustainability aspects than fishing with the traditional beam trawl. For example, there is less soil disturbance, less by-catch of undersized fish and less fuel consumption.

Watch the animations on the effects of pulse fishing

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