Pulse trawling advice released

ICES responds to a request on whether pulse trawling contributes to reduced or increased ecosystem impacts.
Published: 20 May 2020

​​​​ICES has released advice in response to a request from the Netherlands on whether, for the North Sea sole fishery, pulse trawling contributes to reduced or increased ecosystem impacts

Pulse trawling is the  application of electrical stimulation to replace the conventional mechanical stimulation with tickler chains in the beam trawl fishery for sole. 

ICES advice is that the change from conventional beam trawling to pulse trawling, when exploiting the total allowable catch (TAC) of North Sea sole (Solea solea), does contribute to reducing the impacts of the sole fishery on the ecosystem and environment.

Pulse trawling in the North Sea​​​

Fisheries scientists have long explored the potential application of electricity in capture fisheries. Since 2009, the majority of Dutch beam trawlers switched to pulse trawling for sole.

However, electrotrawling has become a controversial topic. The use of electricity to catch sole raised concerns about the possibility of increased mortality and sub-lethal effects on target and non-target species, as well as possible adverse impacts on the benthic ecosystem. Fishers in some countries have been impacted by the European Parliament voting to maintain the EU ban on pulse trawling. The latest advice addresses some of these concerns.​


In this arena, our Working group on Electrical Trawling (WGELECTRA) provides a platform for scientists to discuss their research and build on collaborative projects. Substantial efforts over the last 10 years have examined the effect of pulsed currents on a range of species, species groups, and life stages.

During their 2020 meeting, WGELECTRA produced a state-of-the-art review of the scientific knowledge where the effects of pulse trawling on marine organisms, populations, and ecosystems are reviewed and compared to conventional beam trawling. WGELECTRA Chair Adriaan Rijnsdorp, Wageningen Marine Research notes that “the report provides a solid scientific basis on the pros and cons of pulse trawls when exploiting the total allowable catch of sole to be used in decision making in the future".

Read ICES advice on pulse trawling​.

WGELECTRA addresses the impacts of human activities, one of ICES science priorities that support our Strategic Plan. Discover our seven interrelated scientific priorities and how our network will address them​ in our Science Plan: “Marine ecosystem and sustainability science for the 2020s and beyond”​

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​Pulse trawl net. Photo: Natalie Steins.

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Pulse trawling advice released

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