Government must 'get a grip' of what is now a full-blown crisis in the fishing industry, say fishermen

Simon Johnson
·3 min read
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits Grimsby Fish Market in Grimsby -  REUTERS
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits Grimsby Fish Market in Grimsby - REUTERS

Scotland's fishermen have told Boris Johnson his Brexit trade deal leaves them with the "worst of both worlds" amid export delays and collapsing market prices.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, the Scottish Fishermen's Federation (SFF) said the industry was facing "mounting financial losses" and the only way to ensure a fair price was a 72-hour round trip to land catch in Denmark.

Elspeth Macdonald, the trade group's chief executive, said there was "huge disappointment and a great deal of anger about your failure to deliver on promises made repeatedly to this industry."

She accused him of having "spun a line" about a 25 per cent uplift in the UK's quota and demanded urgent details of promised compensation for the disruption.

Her concerns were echoed by Scotland's seafood processors, who said ministers in both London and Edinburgh need to "get a grip" of the long delays exporters are facing.

A third of fishing boats in Scotland are tied up at harbours and the industry is estimated to be losing £1 million per day.

Exporters warned they face possible bankruptcy amid a suspension of road deliveries due to border delays.

Transport company DFDS stopped exports last week after delays in getting new paperwork introduced following the expiry of the Brexit transition period for EU border posts in France. It aims to resume the service on Monday.

Paperwork has to be approved before consignments can be sent to DFDS's warehouse in South Lanarkshire and then on to English Channel ports.

In her letter to the Prime Minister, Ms McDonald said: "Many fishing vessels are tied to the quay wall.”

She added: "This industry now finds itself in the worst of both worlds. Your deal leaves us with shares that not only fall very far short of zonal attachment, but in many cases fail to ‘bridge the gap’ compared to historic catches, and with no ability to leverage more fish from the EU, as they have full access to our waters.

"This, coupled with the chaos experienced since 1st January in getting fish to market means that many in our industry now fear for their future, rather than look forward to it with optimism and ambition."

Jamie McMillan from Loch Fyne Langoustines. The SNP recently claimed that a third of the Scottish fishing fleet is tied up in harbour and losing £1 million a week, causing fresh and high quality produce to be lost - Getty Images
Jamie McMillan from Loch Fyne Langoustines. The SNP recently claimed that a third of the Scottish fishing fleet is tied up in harbour and losing £1 million a week, causing fresh and high quality produce to be lost - Getty Images

Jimmy Buchan, chief executive of the Scottish Seafood Association, said: "The industry in Scotland has basically ground to a halt and businesses that employ hundreds of people in communities around our coastline are losing money.

"It is time for our governments to get a grip of what is now a full-blown crisis, and fast, before severe and lasting damage is done to the sector."

Fergus Ewing, the Scottish Environment Secretary, said: "Previously booming businesses have been left to rot as a result of extensive bureaucracy forced on them by a poor Brexit deal."

But the UK Government accused SNP ministers of failing to put adequate systems in place to accommodate the required checks at distribution hubs in Scotland.

A spokeswoman said they should not "abdicate their responsibilities to Scottish businesses".

A Downing Street spokesman said: "Throughout the adjustment period, we will invest in our fishing communities and do everything we can to help to rebuild the industry.

"The Prime Minister has already committed to investing £100 million in the UK’s fishing industry and provided the Scottish Government with nearly £200 million to minimise disruption for businesses.

“As the PM said this week, we recognise the Scottish fishing industry is facing some temporary issues following the end of the Transition Period, and we are looking at the additional financial support we can provide to those businesses affected.”