Dutch lose court fight against EU electric pulse fishing ban

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A fisherman puts a tyre onto a fire at a road block, as they protest the practice of electric pulse fishing, in Boulogne sur Mer, France, January 25, 2018. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

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BRUSSELS, April 15 (Reuters) - The Netherlands on Thursday lost its fight against an EU-wide ban on electric pulse fishing after Europe's top court said EU lawmakers have wide discretion in making legislation.

Pulse fishing is widely used in the Netherlands, which says the technique reduces unwanted bycatch and avoids ploughing nets along the seabed.

Opponents including French fishermen and environmentalists say the technique - which uses electrodes to emit electric waves and stun fish which then float upwards and are scooped up by giant nets - deplete fish numbers.

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The concerns prompted the European Parliament and the EU Council to agree to a ban in 2019, with a transitional period running to June 30 this year under certain strict conditions.

The Netherlands subsequently took its grievance to the Luxembourg-based EU Court of Justice (CJEU) in 2019, arguing that lawmakers had not used the best scientific opinions to compare the environmental impact of pulse fishing and traditional beam trawling of North Sea sole.

Judges threw out the arguments.

"The EU legislature has a wide discretion in this field and is not obliged to base its legislative choice on scientific and technical opinions only," the Court said.

"Although the scientific and technical studies available contain, at times, divergent assessments of the extent of the negative impacts of electric pulse fishing, none of them states, contrary to what the Netherlands maintain, that this method has no negative impacts on the environment."

The case is C-733/19 Netherlands v Council and Parliament.

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Reporting by Foo Yun Chee Editing by David Holmes

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