Socio-economic consequences of a ban on pulse fishing for the Dutch fishing industry

Published on
February 6, 2019

If all pulse trawlers have to switch to the traditional beam trawl, this results in a sharp reduction in the economic yield per vessel and for the entire sector. Based on the relatively favorable price situation in 2016, the labor output - the total of net result and wages - is slightly more than EUR 100,000 lower per euro-cutter and about EUR 120,000 lower per large cutter. For the Dutch fleet, the change means a decrease in the total labor yield of 8.7 million euros. If the 2013 price levels are taken into account, the total labor yield will decrease by 21.5 million euros.

Wageningen Economic Research has carried out research into the socio-economic consequences of a complete ban on pulse fishing for Dutch fisheries for the Fishery Administrative Platform (BPV).

The Dutch cutter fleet has been experimenting with pulse fishing since 2011 on a larger scale. This offers a number of advantages including lower soil disturbance and lower fuel consumption. The latter in particular means that pulse fishing has been of great importance to the Dutch cutter sector in recent years.

On January 16, 2018, a large majority of the European Parliament voted for a total ban on pulse fishing.

Switching from pulse to beam trawl results in a significant increase in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. In addition, it has consequences for sole and plaice catches.

Consequence downshift pulse to beam trawl
Fuel use and CO2 emissions + 78 %
Plaice catch + 69 %
Sole catch - 12 %

The pulse fleet is of great importance for Dutch fisheries. There are 79 cutters that have been using a pulse in recent years. The net result of this pulse fleet in 2016 was 38% of the total of the Dutch fleet, and 60% of the Dutch flatfish fleet.

Employment opportunities 

Pulse fishing offers direct employment between 540 and 600 fte. In 2016, with relatively favorable fish prices and low fuel prices, a positive result could still be achieved after switching to beam trawl. At lower prices for plaice and sole and higher fuel prices (see period 2012-2014), the average net result would be nil. Half of the cutters would even achieve a negative result.

Effects on the fishing economy 

Due to the negative results, the continuity of the companies will be at stake. It will be difficult to attract qualified crew and due to the decrease of the financial result there will be less or no room for replacement and renewal.

About the research

The data used for this study come from the Wageningen Economic Research business information network. This is where the actual data of fishing companies are recorded. In addition to the starting situation of 2016, various price scenarios were calculated to gain insight into the price sensitivity of the outcomes. The study does not take into account other developments that will also affect the fishery such as landing obligation, Brexit and use of space in the North Sea (such as wind farms and nature reserves).

The survey was commissioned by the Fisheries Administrative Platform (Bestuurlijk Platvorm Visserij), consisting of administrative representatives of the various fishing communities (provinces and municipalities).