Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has warned the European Commission that its rulings will be meaningless if they are riddled with loopholes.
The Ireland South MEP was speaking after it was revealed that Dutch fishing companies have received almost six times the number of pulse trawl fishing licences they are entitled to.
Ms. Ní Riada, who sits on the EU Fisheries Committee, said the granting of so many licences was a slap in the face to the EU Parliament, who voted to maintain a ban on pulse trawling just weeks ago.
“While the European Parliament voted to uphold the ban on pulse trawling a number of ‘innovative’ licences were granted to Dutch operators while more research is carried out into the effects of the practice,” she said.
“Under current Member State rules that would mean they can equip up to 5% of certain vessels with electric pulse trawls, resulting in the granting of around 15 licences.
“However, due to the exploitation of a number of legal and regulatory loopholes, aided by questionable legal interpretations facilitated by the EU Commission itself, a total of 84 of these licences have been granted.
“Back room deals and technical exploitations of this nature not only neuter the power of EU rulings but also expose the Commission as being in the service of wealthy industrialised fleets.
“It’s a particular slap in the face to the people of Europe that this could happen just weeks after the European Parliament, the only directly democratically elected body in the EU, voted to uphold a ban on the practice.
“It’s worth noting as well that the ban was not upheld for frivolous reasons. There remain serious questions over the effect of the practice on marine life and the environment and both myself and the majority of MEPs, remain unconvinced that it does not at the very least have the potential to do serious damage to our oceans and our industry.
“If the EU wants to gain the trust of the people then shady practices like this have to stop. More power must be granted to the Parliament, the body elected by the people, as it is becoming increasingly clear that the Commission is in the thrall of big business and that rulings only apply to those without the means and the political sway to get around them.”