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Exploring the food chain, one job at a time.
In this newsletter: My adventures in electric pulse fishery on the North Sea// Upcoming Brexit road trip // Things to read, watch & consider

Hello friends and fellow food chain explorers. These are exciting, though unsure times for a lot of people in food production. In the European fishing community, a debate has been raging for the past years, quite possibly coming to a culmination in the next week. Will electric pulse fishing be banned from all European waters? In January I spent one week aboard an electric pulse trawler, to find out what the big debate is about, how these fishers look at their near future, and how we as consumers can form our own opinion on complex issues like these. A small excerpt of my story can be found below.

Then, Brexit, the big, dark cloud hanging over Great Britain. At this point, nobody really knows what will happen. As I was curious about the perspective of food producers across the English Channel, I decided to plan a Brexit Roadtrip this month, to visit and interview as many British food professionals as I can in two weeks. Expect to hear more about this in the next few weeks!

A Week Aboard an Electric Pulse Trawler
The crew of the GO 37: Richard, Henk, Kees, Peter, Hans and Chris.

Hans and his nephew Peter were in the 'first movers' group, the first twenty fishermen in the Netherlands who were allowed to fish with electric pulse. But that does not mean that they were immediately convinced that electric pulse had a future.

'What many people do not understand is how close we were to quitting back in 2011', Peter tells me. ‘The previous version of the beam trawl - with ‘tickler chains’ - gave a lot more resistance on the seabed. We also had to go faster, about 6.5 miles per hour instead of the 4.7 we do now, because the effect of the chains was significantly better at a higher speed. Because of these two things we needed double the amount of fuel compared to what we use now. About 30,000 liters per week compared to 15,000 these days. In addition, an increasing fuel price reached € 0.70 per liter. We could not have lasted long in that situation, we were losing money fast. We had to either take the chance with the electric pulse, or stop. A lot of fellow fishermen already quit in those years. Twenty-five years ago there still were fifty or sixty boats in Stellendam harbour, nowadays there are only about nine left. "
 
'I'm worried about the size of the group of sole fishermen,' says Peter. 'Forty will very likely have to stop this year. They lose their exemption for the pulse, and it is too expensive to continue in the old way, so many will stop. If there are too few fisherman bringing sole into the fish auction, the price will rise, making it unaffordable for the group of consumers who can still afford it now. '

The full story of my week on the North Sea will published in parts between Friday the 8th until Friday the 15th of February. Read the first part now:
Dutch version I English version

Up next: Brexit Road trip

I'm currently planning a road trip through Great Britain, to visit and interview farmers, fishers and other food producers about their perspective on Brexit & the future relationship between the UK and Europe. I'll be out on the road in the last week of February, and the first week of March. Stories will follow as I go and in the weeks after.

Things to read, watch and consider

If you're looking for some insight into the method of Electric Pulse Fishing, watch this short video made by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs. Warning: it is made by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, so I can't say it's not biased at all. 

One of the books I came across preparing for my week on the North Sea. In this book, Redmond O'Hanlon gives some insight into the extreme life of Scottish fishermen, as well as into the delirious madness that arises from structural sleep deprivation.

Reads like an acid trip on a wild sea.
I've played this song, 'Prickly Pear' by the Portico Quartet, of their album 'Knee-deep in the North Sea' a lot in in the past weeks. No matter the dark clouds ahead, there's no way this doesn't send you into your weekend with a little optimism.
Have a great weekend and keep feeding your curiosity!
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De Seizoensarbeider · Hoofdweg 229-2 · Amsterdam, Netherlands, Noord Holland 1057CV · Netherlands

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