WAV Comment – just because the target has been exceeded; it does not mean it is time to stop giving to this fantastic organisation. Orangutans are having their habitat wiped out due to the Palm Oil industry – and babies are being taken from their killed mothers to be sold on the black market. We need to do everything we can to stop this now. Please continue to give if you can – thanks Mark.
The UK’s Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science is due to publish a study according to which pulse trawling, also known as electric fishing, kills off more than half of the seabed species, while traditional fishing methods only impact 21%. EURACTIV’s partner le Journal de l’Environnement reports.
The Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) compared two British fishing areas of similar size, ecosystem and sediment composition, and analysed the quantity and condition of the fish species.
The only difference between the two fishing areas is that only one of them has electric beam trawlers operating in it.
“This is the standard methodology for studying the impact of fishing gear on ecosystems. It is the same protocol that Cefas followed when it documented the impacts of the classic otter trawl,” noted Didier Gascuel, a professor of fisheries ecology at Agro Campus Ouest.
57% of benthic species have disappeared
The study showed that the area in which electric fishing had been practised had much less biodiversity, as the zone lost 57% of its species. Conversely, in the other fishing area, which did not have pulse trawlers operating, only 21% of the species had gone extinct.
“This study is important because it is the first of its kind to assess impacts in the field,” according to Didier Gascuel.
By sending electric shocks into sediments, beam trawlers caught flatfish more easily. But in the process, this destroyed half of the organisms which lived at the lowest level of the body of water, also known as ‘benthic species’.
Soles also disappeared
The researchers said that 17 benthic species observed in the reference area have vanished from the area where pulse trawlers had been active. And all the species present were strongly affected.
There were 2.6 times less common soles, while half the thornback rays had disappeared. This might be explained by the inability of electric trawlers to fill their sole fish quota last year.
An entire ecosystem at risk
On the other hand, this area is home to a growing number of fragile brittle stars, similar to starfish, as well as hermit crabs, a scavenger species.
“This shows that benthic species are highly impacted. The invasion of these [scavenger] species is a sign that the entire ecosystem, which is losing biodiversity and resilience, is more generally at risk,” Gascuel explained.
A total ban for July 2021
Banned in Europe by the Regulation of 30 March 1998, electric fishing still benefits from derogations granted “on an experimental basis” to 5% of every member state’s fleet of pulse trawlers.
This gap was mainly filled by the Netherlands (84 vessels in 2018), but also by Germany (which also has six Dutch-owned sole-fishing ships), the United Kingdom and Belgium.
And all their fleets operate in the southern parts of North Sea.
Last February, the EU took a stricter stance by finally banning this fishing practice in all European waters from 1 July 2021 onwards. This was in part thanks to the mobilisation of Bloom, an environmental NGO.
However, the Netherlands decided to challenge this ban before the European Court of Justice on 9 October.
Many Dutch trawlers catch bottom-dwelling fish with bursts of low-voltage electricity, sparking fears from other fishing nations and some environmental groups.
Ton Koene/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images
Tensions flare over electric fishing in European waters
In a surprise outcome, the European Parliament voted today to ban a type of electric fishing that has demonstrated environmental benefits, as part of legislation to reform Europe’s fisheries.
The proposed end to “pulse trawling”—in which short bursts of electricity get flatfish out of the sediment and into nets—is a major disappointment to Dutch fishing companies, which have invested heavily in the technology; they claim it’s less damaging to marine ecosystems than traditional bottom trawling and saves energy. But some environmental groups applaud the parliament’s decision.
Many observers had predicted European Parliament would only recommend scaling back pulse trawling. “I’m baffled, to be honest,” says Marloes Kraan, an anthropologist at Wageningen Marine Research in IJmuiden, the Netherlands. “We had prepared ourselves for a bad outcome, but a ban was totally unexpected,” says Pim Visser, director of VisNed, a trawling trade group in Urk, the Netherlands.
group in Paris that has led a campaign to stop pulse trawling, declared the vote “a tremendous victory for the ocean, for artisanal fishers and Europe.” BLOOM worries that pulse trawling harms nontarget marine life; fishing groups in other EU countries, meanwhile, are increasingly angry about competition from the Dutch pulse trawlers. Other nongovernmental organizations, however, including Greenpeace Netherlands, say pulse trawling has promise to increase sustainability and that ending it now would penalize the fishing industry for innovating. “We call upon the fishermen not to be discouraged to embrace further innovation,” the North Sea Foundation said in a statement about the “unfortunate” outcome.
The vote is just the first step in negotiations with the European Commission and member states over the large package of fisheries reforms.
We call upon the fishermen not to be discouraged to embrace further innovation.
North Sea Foundation
Most bottom trawlers drag a net, held open by a wide metal beam, across the bottom to catch shrimp or fish. Trawlers targeting flatfish, such as sole or plaice, also use dangling iron chains to scare them out of the sediment. The beam and chains disturb or kill many bottom-dwelling organisms, the nets catch unwanted species, and all the tugging requires a lot of diesel.
Pulse trawlers, by contrast, barely touch the bottom because they use bursts of low-voltage electricity to catch flatfish, particularly Dover sole. After the current briefly cramps their muscles, they try to flee, and many end up in the net. Because sole are more susceptible to electricity than other species, pulse trawling reduces bycatch. And the gear is lighter and can be towed slower, so the boats burn half as much fuel and impact less area. “We catch with a lesser environmental impact and greater economic returns,” Visser says. He credits the gear with saving many fishing companies from bankruptcy.
Sea bed A charged approachMany Dutch fishing vessels have adopted electric pulse trawling, but competitors and some environmentalgroups object. In pulse trawling, a wingshaped beam glides above the sea bed trailing strings ofelectrodes that are located above the mouth of the net. Electricitycauses flatfishto leave thesediment. Net doesn’ttouch the seabed, causingless damage.
Encouraged by initial studies, the Dutch government in 2006 successfully lobbied the European Commission to allow 5% of each country’s fleet to use pulse trawling, exempting them from the European Union’s 1988 general ban on electrical fishing. By 2009, Dutch companies had embraced the opportunity. As demand grew, they received additional licenses for reducing bycatch or research with the condition that they provide detailed data on their catches. Now, 75 vessels, about 28% of Dutch trawlers, use pulse gear. Fishing companies outside the Netherlands fish for sole, too, but don’t specialize in it; as a result, few have invested in the expensive technology.
BLOOM argues that the research and bycatch licenses are illegal and a guise for commercial fishing, and that pulse trawling puts small-scale fishing at an even bigger disadvantage than conventional trawling does. BLOOM advocates catching flatfish with gillnets, stationary curtains of netting that have a much lower bycatch rate than either kind of trawling and do less damage to the sea floor. “There shouldn’t be any use of electric current,” says Director Claire Nouvian. “We’ve got enough evidence to know this is nonsense.”
Scientists have so far found little evidence that the electrical currents cause serious harm. Last year, a working group with the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) highlighted harm to large cod and whiting as the only known irreversible effect. Although not many cod are accidentally caught by pulse trawlers, about 10% of them suffer vertebral fractures and hemorrhages when their muscles overcontract from the shocks. Initial laboratory research on other organisms has not shown lasting, serious effects, but the ICES group says questions remain, for instance about the effects on sharks and rays.
Nevertheless, “We know enough to continue with pulse trawling in the present context,” says Adriaan Rijnsdorp, a fisheries biologist at Wageningen Marine Research and a co-chair of the ICES working group. But he says a decision on the future of pulse trawling should wait until 2019, when a 4-year, EU-funded research program on ecological impacts, which he coordinates, is due to wrap up.
There shouldn’t be any use of electric current. We’ve got enough evidence to know this is nonsense.
Claire Nouvian, BLOOM Association
Any decision will have to be agreed on by the European Parliament, the commission, and member states, in this case represented by their fisheries ministers. The commission has proposed removing the cap on licenses in the southern North Sea, where pulse trawling now occurs; other areas could follow after further studies. The ministers, by contrast, would de facto remove licenses beyond the 5% limit of a country’s fleet, which would force most Dutch vessels to give up pulse trawling.
A compromise in which the technique is greatly curtailed is the most likely outcome, says Irene Kingma, director of the Dutch Elasmobranch Society in Amsterdam, which promotes the study and conservation of sharks and rays. “There might be carnage within the Dutch fishing sector,” Kingma says. “And if they change back to beam trawling, we have all the environmental problems from that.”
Global pizza chain Pizza Hut recently launched a full vegan menu in all locations across Australia.
The menu features four pizzas: Vegan Mediterranean, Vegan Deluxe, Vegan Cheese Lovers, and Vegan Margherita.
The restaurant also offers vegan cheesy garlic bread, which joins its existing vegan-friendly garlic bread and Spud Bites. A vegan ice cream cone has also been added to the dessert menu.
The new vegan options come a year after the company first tested vegan options in the country. In May 2018, Pizza Hut trialled vegan cheese—made by local vegan company Dairy Free Down Under—as an option for its pizzas at two locations in New South Wales, Australia.
Starting February 2020, the University of Helsinki—the oldest and largest university in Finland—will no longer serve beef for lunch.
The school’s food provider UniCafe—which serves approximately 1,000 lunches daily—made the decision to remove beef from the menu in a bid to fight the climate crisis and revealed that the move would reduce its carbon footprint by 11 percent annually.
“The idea came from the staff as we were thinking about our next responsibility action,” Leena Pihlajamäki, the chief operating officer at UniCafe, told local media outlet YLE. “We realised that this is a way to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions significantly.
Studies show that it’s one of the most effective ways. The goal is ambitious but far from impossible.” The University of Helsinki follows the University of Coimbra (Portugal’s oldest university), University of Cambridge, and Goldsmiths college which have all pledged to remove beef from on-campus dining facilities in recent months for environmental purposes.
As a Brit, I have (in the past) had some great times in New Mexico – wonderful people, beautiful towns, great history; not a cloud in the sky ! and a rather hot series of Balloon festivals !
Thanks to Mayor Webber for his outstanding initiative for animals and for the environment and bettering human health. Regards Mark (WAV).
Exciting news for Santa Fe, New Mexico residents and the vegan community as the city’s mayor Alan Webber recently named November Vegan Awareness Month. Mayor Webber hopes this action will encourage residents to explore the many delicious vegan options available in their city and by doing so, make a positive impact on the environment, their health, and animal welfare.
The proclamation highlights the many benefits of a plant-based diet, including that every day it “saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 square feet of forested lands, the equivalent of 20 pounds of CO2, and one animal’s life.”
Through this initiative, Webber says he hopes to continue Santa Fe’s legacy as “a leader in water conservation and earth-friendly practices, [. . .] support[ing] people who choose a vegan diet for whatever reason” and encouraging others to “learn about plant-based eating during November and beyond.”
The Mayo Clinic and the American Dietetic Association tout the multiple health perks of adopting a plant-based diet. The ADA states that plant-based diets “are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases” and are appropriate for any age. Consuming solely fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes helps lower and manage blood pressure and cholesterol and makes developing chronic heart disease less likely. Additionally, research shows that this diet “reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.”
In addition to the powerful impact a plant-based diet can have your health and the environment, eliminating animal products means no longer contributing to the rampant cruelty farm animals endure in the meat, egg dairy industries. Animals are frequently beaten, thrown, kicked, and discarded like trash.
Male chicks in the egg industry are sometimes ground alive as they do not produce eggs and therefore are seen as unimportant. Pigs are confined to such small quarters that they are unable to move or stand. These are only a few examples of the awful conditions in which these animals must live.
We applaud Mayor Webber for this initiative and hope it will inspire more civic leaders to follow suit.
Great news out of Sacramento! On Saturday, October 12, Governor Newsom signed AB 44 (banning the sale and production of new fur products) and AB 1254 (bobcat trophy hunting) into law. This momentous legislation will spare countless wild animals from the cruel and unnecessary fur trade and bobcats from the horrors of trophy hunting.
Animals raised for the fur trade languish in tiny cages on factory farms and are cruelly killed by gassing or electrocution. Wildlife including foxes, coyotes, beaver, and otter are also trapped in their native habitat and their skins sold at auction. These two laws send a message to the fur industry that consumers no longer want animals skinned for fashion clothing and accessories.
The ban on bobcat hunting will spare countless bobcats and other nontarget species from being sport-hunted—following up on California’s precedent-setting ban on bobcat trapping in 2015. It will also help preserve the species, which faces a range of threats including human encroachment on their habitat and consequences from climate change.
Join us in thanking Governor Newsom and the bill sponsors—Asm. Laura Friedman (who introduced the fur ban bill) and Asm. Sydney Kamlager-Dove (who championed the bobcat bill)—for taking a stand against these inhumane practices. Please shoot them a quick email—contact information is at the links provided.
We are deeply grateful to all of you who supported these bills and spoke out for the voiceless animals.