Effects of electrical stimulation on marine organisms in bottom pulse trawl fisheries in the North Sea

P.G. Boute*, J.L. van Leeuwen, A.D. Rijnsdorp, M.J. Lankheet

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractAcademic

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Abstract

Electric pulse bottom trawling uses electricity to startle flatfishes from the seabed sediments and has numerous advantages over traditional tickler chain beam trawling during which heavy tickler chains plow the seabed. Fuel consumption may be cut by 50%, fish discards are reduced up to 57%, and benthic discards up to 80%. Higher selectivity, reduced seabed damage, and higher net revenues make electric pulse trawling a promising, more sustainable, alternative compared to the traditional fishing method. Currently, around 97 European fishing vessels are practising electric pulse fishing on the North Sea of which the majority are Dutch vessels. However, injuries and mortality in non-target species such as Atlantic cod and whiting have raised questions regarding the effects of the electrical stimulation. The current study aims to elucidate and predict the effects of pulse stimulation on various marine organisms by combining modelling with laboratory experiments. The modelling component entails simulations of the electrical fields generated by commercial fishing gear and implementing the effects of different pulse settings (frequency, pulse duration, and voltage) on various non-target fishes of different shapes and sizes. This will be validated by samples from commercial and fish survey trails assessed by X-ray photography. Laboratory experiments will unveil how electrical stimulation may lead to damage in non-target species, serving as input for the model. In addition, species-specific behavioural experiments will be designed to cover the responses of electroreceptive fishes such as sharks and benthic invertebrates including crustaceans, molluscs, and annelids. The final model will enable predicting damage from electrical pulses on various marine organisms that are either retained in the net or remain in the water. This should allow determination of optimal pulse settings for catching the target species, but minimise collateral damage. Effectuating the forthcoming recommendations may lead to a reduction of the adverse effects of bottom trawling.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 6-Feb-2017
Externally publishedYes
EventWIAS Science Day 2017: Beyond Sustainability - Orion Building, Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen, Netherlands
Duration: 6-Feb-20176-Feb-2017

Conference

ConferenceWIAS Science Day 2017
CountryNetherlands
CityWageningen
Period06/02/201706/02/2017

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