Standardization project for pulse fishing

18-05-2017 In December 2016, the Dutch national standardization committee on fisheries launched a new project. The committee set up a standardization project to determine requirements to the innovative technology of pulse fishing.

The Netherlands is a coastal country, with a large stake in a strong and sustainable fishery sector. The Dutch sector has developed an innovative technique for fishing with electrical pulses. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, the first steps to the development of this fishing technique were made. From 2005 onwards, big innovation leaps for pulse technologies for flat fish have been made. The new technology offers demonstrable economic and ecological benefits compared to the regular beam trawl fishing.

Using electricity for fishing, however, is forbidden in European waters. The pulse fishing technology can only be used for scientific means. On the basis of academic research, fishermen are able to receive an exemption to the ban. The technical requirements are fixed in a technical dossier, which every Dutch vessel is obliged to have on board. The requirements for the technical dossier are based on the Dutch regulation on electrical fishing.

Electrical fishing

The pulse technology is based on electrical wires (electrodes) running over the bottom of the sea. This creates a pulse field. Flat fish that happen to be in the pulse field, get a little electrical shock. The shock, or pulse, makes the muscles of the flat fish contract, making it swim up from the soil. The fish doesn’t get killed or numbed by the pulse, just scared up. When the pulse field has passed, the muscles relax, and the fish will try to swim away. The fish will swim right into the net that is dragged behind the electrodes.

Standard for the implementation of pulse technology

For the safety of both fish and fisherman, it is important that the standardization committee comes to an agreement on safety requirements. The committee consists of representatives of the industry, government, producers and NGO’s. Their agreements are consolidated in a Dutch national standard, at the standardization institute NEN.
The goal of this standardization project is to create an independent, normative document that describes the technical safety requirements on pulse fishing, without limiting the possibilities of future innovation. A widely supported and implemented standard can help the fishery sector with the possibilities for using the pulse technology. It will also be a means to justify and safeguard the technology within national and European legislation and regulation.
The standard will be used as a starting point for the revision of the Dutch regulation. Moreover, the standard is written in English, for the implementation of the content in other European countries. Eventually, the Dutch stakeholders intend to implement the standard in all European waters.

More information

The first public draft will be available in the fourth quarter of 2017. The draft will then be published on our website, where you can read the standard and leave your comments.

For more information on the content of the standard, please contact Gillian Herpers, consultant AgroFood & Consumer Goods at NEN: +31 15 2690 444 or

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More information?

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