Fishers find their voice in the Netherlands:
their traditional gear is finally recognized.
Arjan Heinen, LIFE Member from NetVISwerk
28th of January 2020
The encircling gillnet (GNC) is a traditional fishing gear used in the Netherlands by small scale low impact fishers to catch mullet. The technique requires that the gear is set around the schools of fish, which must be located by eye. As seabass tends to associate with schools of mullet, they have come to represent an important bycatch for hard pressed small-scale mullet fishers. In recent years, the schools of mullet have decreased whilst the presence of seabass has increased in Netherlands waters. As a result, GNC fishers are catching increasing quantities of seabass.
Given the short time the fish are in the nets, the quality of the fish is very good. Since the only propulsion needed is for the location and surrounding of the schools of fish, and since the nets are very light, energy consumption is low. Another big advantage of the gear for the fishery is the relatively low by-catch. The large mesh-size also ensures that 99% of the fish is above minimum landing size. A clear case of the right gear, for the right place at the right time.
However, despite these advantages, and despite the traditional use of the gear and the fishers’ track records for seabass for 2015 and 2016, the Netherlands authorities omitted to inform the European Commission and Council about the gear. The GNC fishers were therefore dumbfounded to find themselves excluded from the gears permitted to catch seabass under conservation measures introduced in 2017.
Their case was taken up by the netVISwerk fisher’s association, a partner organization of LIFE in the Netherlands. Thanks to their intensive lobbying efforts, three years later this traditional fishing technique was finally recognized and incorporated into the regulations in 2020 as a permitted gear for seabass fishing. Over the previous 3 years, fishers using the encircling gill net have been deprived of a catch allocation of seabass, with no compensation. In the new regulation, GNC (Gil Net enCircling) operators are allowed to catch and land 1400 kg of seabass.
In coordination with LIFE and LIFE’s other member organizations netVISwerk will continue to lobby to ensure a preferential treatment for small-scale low impact fishers to access seabass and eel stocks.