Pulse fishing: What is it and has Boris Johnson banned it?

Brexiteers hail new law despite not needing to be outside EU to implement it

Gove: Fishing industry can turn the corner with Brexit deal

As the UK officially completed its exit from the European Union late on New Year’s Eve, Brexiteers hailed a new domestic law implemented by Boris Johnson’s government that immediately bans EU fishermen from “pulse fishing” in UK waters.

“Excellent that [Defra] has banned pulse fishing in UK waters from 11:00pm yesterday,” Conservative MP David Jones tweeted on Friday. “A good example of the environmental, conservation and welfare improvements we can make after leaving the EU.”

Brexiteer and former MEP Martin Daubney tweeted: “A superb early win for the UK, as pulse fishing is banned from British waters the very minute we left the EU.”

However, despite the suggestion Britain’s exit released the country from the shackles of unwanted European fishing rules, the truth appears rather different.

What is pulse fishing?

The practice, which is controversial among environmentalists, sees electrical pulses being sent into the seawater to flush out bottom-dwelling fish like plaice and sole, causing them to swim into the path of trawl nets.

Its backers say it is a friendlier alternative to beam trawling, where a large net is dragged across the ocean floor, destructively scooping up everything in its path. But its opponents say pulse trawling can fatally injure other species, which may not be part of the target catch.

Could the UK have banned pulse fishing earlier?

While timing the law to coincide with Britain’s exit gave the government a timely PR boost, the fact is such a law could have been implemented without ever leaving the EU.

France, which very much remains a member, banned pulse fishing within its territorial waters in the summer of 2019, months after the EU reached a deal enabling member states to immediately ban the practice within their coastal waters.

The move came amid anger among French fishermen, who said the practice by their Dutch counterparts – who pioneered the practice – leads to unsustainable stock depletions.

What’s pulse fishing’s legal status in the EU?

While Britain lags behind France in banning pulse fishing, it is only marginally ahead of the EU itself, which is set to implement its own ban in July, though it will apparently allow an exemption for six boats following pressure from the Dutch fishing industry.

The bloc had previously allowed member states to equip up to five per cent of their vessels with pulse fishing equipment.

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