Fisherman's efforts rewarded after EU vote on controversial fishing method - but battle not yet won
PUBLISHED: 12:21 31 January 2018 | UPDATED: 12:21 31 January 2018
A fisherman dedicated to restoring his hometown back to its former glory has seen his lobbying rewarded after a groundbreaking vote in the European Parliament.
Paul Lines, chairman of Lowestoft Fish Market Alliance, has long campaigned for the banning of the contentious electrical pulse fishing, which involves the use of electrodes attached to nets. Fish are driven towards the nets by the signals in the water.
Those who oppose the practice argue it causes considerable pain and widespread disease among fish, in addition to damaging the survival and feasibility of traditional fishing methods. Supporters say it is efficient and avoids trawler damage to the seabed.
The practice was prohibited in 1998, but Dutch fisherman obtained a license in 2006 which allowed them to exploit the ban and conduct experimental fishing in EU waters - much of which has been done in the UK.
Alongside various European campaigners, Mr Lines travelled to parliamentary sessions in Brussels and Strasbourg earlier this month to lobby MEPs before the vote on whether to definitively outlaw pulse fishing.
MEPs subsequently voted in favour of amending the relevant legislation and ending the practice by a margin of 402 to 232.
“From our perspective, pulse fishing has wiped out what was left of Lowestoft’s fishing industry,” said Mr Lines.
“The vote was very important and I thought whatever I can do, I’ll do. I voiced my concerns, as did lots of Belgian and French fishermen.
“Nigel Farage, who was in Brussels and Strasbourg, said ‘Go on Paul, get out there and represent the little people’.”
The decision will now be discussed by the European Commission and EU member states prior to approval.
The other potential stumbling block is whether the UK decides to support pulse fishing in its own right after Brexit.
“The worst outcome would be to leave the EU and have a Europe that has banned pulse fishing and a UK that hasn’t,” said Mr Lines.
“All we want is a fair deal for fishing in Lowestoft. Everybody used to make a living out of this and I want to see wet concrete on that fish market 24 hours a day.”