Newlyn Fish Market - boats due to land.

Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Shellfish exports and red tape - what will it take?


After years of pro leave campaigners claiming Brexit would be a huge success for the fishing industry, the opposite has happened.

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Monday, 18 January 2021

Brexit - Condemnation north and south of the border

Widespread condemnation of the Brexit deal for fishing is being reported in the media, from the leader of Plymouth City Council here in the South West to Scotland Fishermen's Federation:

Over-promised and under-delivered; that’s the reality of the new fishing trade agreement with the EU says Councillor Tudor Evans OBE and the fishermen of Plymouth.

The Leader of Plymouth City Council has written a letter to George Eustice MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to express his disappointment at the trade agreement on fishing struck with the EU.

He said: “Plymouth is not only a major fishing port but also a regional hub for the South West industry. All around the coast fishing fleets located in harbours that no longer have auctions and merchant bases to support them or sales of their fish and rely on Plymouth trawler agents to do so.

“This is an industry not just valued for its economic contribution to our city, but its significance to our heritage. That is why I, along with the industry as a whole, are enormously disappointed by what has been delivered in this ‘oven ready’ Brexit deal.

“Fishing was highlighted as a key example of the EU stifling British industry. We were told that outside of the EU people working in the fishing industry would prosper, with exclusive access to our territorial waters and a much fairer share of the fish that’s in it. This trade deal does not achieve any of the promises that were made. Foreign vessels will still have access to UK territorial water and ironically there will be far more red tape for our exporters to deal with.

“Somehow this Brexit deal has managed to deliver all the bad bits and none of the good bits.”

The Council leader called for a number of measures to support the industry:

    • A substantial and targeted funding package - Ministers announced £100m will be made available for ‘modernising trawlers and fish processing’ but more substantial funds will be needed as over 75 per cent of the English fleet is over 20-years-old. Port infrastructure will also need updating. In Plymouth the Council is working with the industry and the port authority to develop proposals for a modern market and fish quay fit for the 21st Century, which would help to drive efficiencies for the whole supply chain.
    • A decommissioning scheme - The Government is looking to strengthen marine conservation measures and further restrict some fishing activities. While we support measures to protect the marine environment, the impact on some fishermen whose traditional grounds would be closed to them should be recognised. Reducing the size of the fleet would help avoid displacement problems and gear conflicts, improve the profitability of remaining businesses and assist the Government to deliver its objective of a modern, sustainable and profitable fleet. Fishermen in Plymouth and elsewhere, in particular those with boats under 10 metres, understand their local fishing grounds will not be protected from EU access. They also understand they are unlikely to receive any big windfalls of quotas they were expecting. As a result they are asking for serious consideration of an urgent decommissioning scheme.
    • Distribution of quota - The quota system should be more transparent and support a diverse fleet. Allocations should take into account the effects on the entire supply chain, with a direct link between quota allocation and benefits to coastal communities. Given the hardships experienced by the industry here, we ask that priority is given to assisting the south west industry. Safety and wellbeing of fishermen - Improved rest and social facilities for fishermen, greater hands-on business support and means of enhancing the earnings of fishermen.
    • A new model of community engagement - We want a genuine collaborative approach that sees DEFRA and its agencies working with the Council and the LEP alongside the local fishing industry. We in Plymouth stand ready to meet this challenge.
    • Improve the operation of regulatory processes - An urgent need for more effective liaison and communication on regulatory systems governing exports to the EU. Problems have arisen which go beyond expected teething difficulties.

He added: “This is not the time for recrimination but a time for central and local government to roll up their sleeves and fix these bottlenecks. It is not important at this stage if the problems are user error or system error, the knock on effects of export stalling means more fish is left on the market for the UK trade to attempt to sell in the middle of a pandemic with the hospitality trade closed down.

“Our fishing fleets are indeed facing the perfect storm. Brexit should be used as an opportunity to strengthen this industry in cities like ours. Fishing is more than just work in Plymouth, it’s in our blood and this council will continue to fight for it.”

A copy of the letter is also being sent to the Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

and then from Scotland's SFF which represents the entire cross-section of fishermen's associations in Scotland.

Letter to Prime Minister from SFF Chief Executive

Dear Prime Minister

I am writing to you as the second week of 2021 draws to a close, and our industry is facing mounting financial losses. Many fishing vessels are tied to the quay wall. Of the others that can go to sea, some are now making a 72-hour round trip to land fish in Denmark, as the only way to guarantee that their catch will make a fair price and actually find its way to market while still fresh enough to meet customer demands.

This, on top of the desperately poor deal on fisheries in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, is not what you promised the fishing industry. In your letter to me of 6th July, you said: “We are simply not prepared to agree to an arrangement that is manifestly unbalanced and against the interests of the UK fishing industry.” Yet that is what has been agreed. You also said: “We are committed to ensuring there are annual negotiations for access to, and sharing of, fishing opportunities, based on the principle of zonal attachment.” Yet we find ourselves with an outcome where the EU fleet will continue to have full and unfettered access to UK waters until the middle of 2026, and should the UK want to change these arrangements at that point, the EU can impose a suite of punitive sanctions on the UK. No other coastal state in the world is in this position.

You and your Government have spun a line about a 25% uplift in quota for the UK, but you know this is not true, and your deal does not deliver that. The adjustment in shares falls very far short of your stated policy of basing these on zonal attachment. While there are some modest increases for some commercially important stocks, these fall very far short of zonal attachment. North Sea herring is a good example – under zonal attachment, the UK’s share would be around 90%. Your deal moves the UK share from 24.5% to 32.2% over five years – this can hardly be claimed as a resounding success. Of major concern, however, is the outcome for many key whitefish species. Your deal actually leaves the Scottish industry in a worse position on more than half of the key stocks and now facing acute problems with North Sea cod and saithe in particular.

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.

Your deal does provide a glimmer of hope for better times ahead, beyond 2026, if whoever is in power then makes the right decision – the decision that you should have made – for the UK to genuinely be an independent coastal state, and not one in name only. It was encouraging to hear George Eustice tell Parliament yesterday that the government will do this, though of course neither he nor you can guarantee who will be in power and able to make this decision in 2026. But this must be the goal to focus on. Your deal has failed the industry in the short term, but there is scope to rights its wrongs, and your Government needs to commit to doing everything that it can to achieve this.

The current situation however is such that many in the seafood supply chain fear they will not survive to see that opportunity materialise. You committed to the Liaison Committee this week that fishing businesses affected by the delays in getting fish to market since 1st January will be compensated for their losses, so we expect to see the details of this compensation scheme as a matter of urgency, and of course this must be new money, and not taken from the £100 million that you have already announced for investment and innovation.

There is huge disappointment and a great deal of anger about your failure to deliver on promises made repeatedly to this industry. We will have another chance to revisit this in 2026, so there is much to do between now and then to prepare the ground for that. But for now, the priorities must be your government securing enough fish though the talks currently taking place with the EU and Norway for 2021 to, as a minimum, bridge the gap that your deal failed to, and acting immediately to stem the losses that are mounting up and compensate those businesses already affected.

Your sincerely

Elspeth Macdonald

Chief Executive, Scottish Fishermen’s Federation

Friday, 15 January 2021

A reminder that, in reality, fishing recognises neither border, nor state of mind or possession of ownership.

Tom, the memorial fisherman in Newlyn looks out towards the Lizard...

where, 16 years ago today, the Breton trawler Bugaled Breizh sank with the loss of all hands - the subsequent enquiry is yet to complete ...

sixteen years later and the focus is still very much on what is happening across the channel where countrywide lockdowns in France, Spain and Portugal continue to affect fish prices and issues with paperwork contrive to halt, delay or curtail certain fish exports...

with Covid affecting crews, fish like hake hard to find and an abundance of dogfish all over the grounds...

the netting fleet are currently staying in port...

so, there is little in the way of 'sunlit uplands' for fishermen throughout the UK even though the fish they are catching, we are now led to believe, are not only 'British' fish but 'better and happy' as a result...

even though Newlyn fish market tells a different story where this week one 800kg landing of dogfish made 12p per kilo, ray wings 8p and the crew of one of the better off netters made £200 a man for their trip - a netter makes around 24 trips a year so averaging that out and you are looking at an annual salary of £4800 - but still, at the very least, it must be very encouraging for UK fishermen to know the fish they catch are happy now. I'm sure many of the skippers and crews down the quay would warmly welcome the opportunity of a visit from Mr Rees-Mogg and the chance to tell him so to his face.

Brexit and freedom from the CFP may yet bring dividends of course...

the Fishermen's Arms has yet to re-open after a fire severely damaged the pub 18 months ago...

there's nothing for the netters to do but maintaIn their nets and hope the sitUation will resolve itseLf sooner rather than later...

in the meantime skippers like young William Worth and his crew will still be going to sea in the hope of catching enough of those better and happy fish to cover running costs and put a wage on the table.

Sad news from France today - in the early hours of this morning the French trawler Breiz capsized and sank with the loss of three lives.

Thursday, 14 January 2021

Listen to the HoC's committee's oral evidence session: Access to UK fisheries post-Brexit

Somewhere in this discussion, the subject of Christmas Nativity crops up.

The EU Environment Sub-Committee discussed the fishing aspects of the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement with fishing Minister Victoria Prentis and other Government officials. 

The first panel involved representatives from the fishing regulators for Scotland and England: Marine Scotland, and the Marine Management Organisation. The second panel involves fishing Minister Victoria Prentis MP and supporting officials. 

Meeting details

At 10.00am: Oral evidence

Inquiry Access to UK fisheries post-Brexit 

Lisa McGuinness - Head at Marine Scotland Compliance

Phil Haslam Director of Operations at Marine Management Organisation 

At 11.00amInquiry Access to UK fisheries post-Brexit 

Victoria Prentis MP Conservative 

Neil Hornby Director of Marine and Fisheries at Defra 

Phil Haslam Director of Operations at Marine Management Organisation 

Areas of discussion:

The Committee will ask the first panel about: 

The preparedness of the marine regulators to monitor fishing activity and enforce the new rules in UK waters now that the UK is an independent coastal state The Committee will ask the second panel about: 

The outcome of the recent negotiations with the EU What the outcome means for the fishing industry.

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

The EU and the UK have distributed several fish species without giving anything to Norway.


"There are many challenges to be solved and that it will be necessary to spend time to get to port," says Audun Maråk ahead of the negotiations between Norway, the EU and the UK on Tuesday. Here are the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission. Photo: EC Audio Visual Service The EU and the UK have distributed several fish species without giving anything to Norway. Resources are already tough before the fisheries negotiations between the EU, the UK and Norway start digitally on Tuesday afternoon.

The Brexit negotiations between the EU and the UK show that the parties have already distributed one hundred percent of the total quota on anglerfish, hake and Norway pout before they sit down at the negotiating table with Norway.

Norway will have shares of these fish species and it is therefore totally unacceptable and contrary to the law of the sea that we should not be met with quotas as we have had all along, says Audun Maråk, CEO of the association Fiskebåt. He is part of the Norwegian delegation to the negotiations.

First negotiation most important

Audun Maråk, CEO of Fiskebåt Photo: Torhild Måkestad Martinussen Thus, the battle for resources is underway before negotiations between all three parties have begun. Maråk, who has a very long sailing time from such negotiations, says that there are many challenges to be solved and that it will be necessary to spend time to get to port.

"There is no doubt that the first negotiations like this are especially important to show the way forward. What we had to lose now, it is difficult to win back in later negotiations," says Maråk.

Stumbling blocks in the first round

Ann Kristin Westberg from the Ministry of Trade and Industry is the experienced leader of the Norwegian negotiating delegation.

In the first week, all three parties are in place in negotiations on the management of the total quotas for the various fish species. Already here are stumbling blocks such as the distribution the EU and the UK have carried out of all anglerfish, hake and eyeballs. Nevertheless, this is expected to be easier to reach agreement on, as there is usually agreement to adhere to the TAC (total quota) as a basis for total quotas.

Bilateral negotiations

Following the joint negotiations, bilateral negotiations will begin between two of the three parties next week. Here there will be a tug-of-war over zone access and quota exchange in separate negotiations between Norway and the EU and Norway and the United Kingdom

"We are concerned about the results we have from the negotiations with the EU in the agreements that have been used as a basis so far. In these agreements, there is ample room for zone access and agreement on quota exchange. Now it will be a balancing act to get an equally good agreement with both parties separately as we have had with the EU as a whole," says Maråk.

Does not accept poorer access He has a clear message to the UK in particular if they choose to tighten zone access for Norwegian fishermen and change quotas. Among other things, Norway has used the zone access with the EU to fish most of the mackerel in recent years in the current British zone.

"If it turns out that zone access to Norway will be tightened, Norway will clearly require larger mackerel and blue whiting stocks than we have today. We can not accept that we are allocated poorer zone access and that we must at the same time keep the distribution that is the basis now," says Audun Maråk.

The debate

There is a lot at stake in the negotiations. While previously there were only 50 people in the negotiations between the EU and Norway from political parties, administration and industry, there are now 140 people to participate in the negotiations.

Norway retains a delegation of 15–20 people, which will be the smallest delegation in the negotiations, the United Kingdom has a larger troop, while the EU has by far the largest delegation.

"We bet that it is not the size of the delegations that will be decisive, but the argumentation in factual negotiations where the professional justification is used as a basis for the results that come," says Audun Maråk.

Delayed negotiations

Skjalg Bøhmer Violence The Minister of Fisheries is also clear:

"I am glad that the fisheries negotiations can finally start. We look forward to establishing a good relationship between three parties in the North Sea," says Minister of Fisheries and Seafood Odd Emil Ingebrigtsen in a press release from the government about the negotiations on joint stocks.

Due to the Brexit negotiations, fisheries negotiations for 2021 were delayed.

From the Norwegian side, the delegation will consist of representatives at official level from the Ministry of Trade and Industry (NFD), the Directorate of Fisheries and the Institute of Marine Research, as well as the Norwegian delegation to the EU and the Norwegian Embassy in the United Kingdom. Representatives from several business organizations are also participating in the negotiations.

"We hope to reach the end of the negotiations quickly, but given the circumstances, it can not be ruled out that this may take some time. This is the first time we will negotiate in a trilateral setting, which will also take place at a video conference as a result of the corona situation, says the Minister of Fisheries and Seafood."

Translated by Google from January 12, 2021 3:25 PM By Einar Lindbæk in Ålesund

Tuesday, 12 January 2021


Calais and Boulogne: despite the Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the UK and the EU reached on Christmas eve, there is mounting concern over the export of fish to Europe, centering on obstacles in Calais and Boulogne. The first consignments of the year from Cornwall hit a brick wall of bureaucracy, and similar problems are being faced in relation to prawns exported from North Shields and with direct landings into Holland. At the time of writing one consignment of fish had been delayed 48 hours with attendant loss of quality. There were fears that the customer would reject the whole consignment on arrival. Buyers are warning vessels that purchases at first sale markets will soon be impacted if clear export routes across the narrow straits, compliant with the new customs regime cannot be quickly established.

Daily updates from the Government’s Border and Protocol Delivery Group indicate that the level of cross-Channel traffic is lower that experience historically at this time of year, suggesting that exporters are reticent to be at the head of the queue to trial the new systems, with all the attendant costs and risks. The update also conceded that a hurried IT update on both sides of the Channel had been necessary.

The Delivery Group has suggested that there could be compound problems involving:

  • Weaknesses in the customs clearing systems User unfamiliarity with the procedures A dilatory response to resolving the issues in France This is an emerging crisis with Calais and Boulogne at the focal point of the difficulties being faced.

Trading Outside the Customs Union

The Trade Agreement removed the immediate threat of tariffs on fisheries products, but the decisions made shortly after the referendum to leave the single market and the customs union, meant that the UK would at the end of the transition period, inevitably be trading across its borders on different conditions as a third country to those as an EU member state.

The current difficulties arise as a result of that change rather than anything in the trade agreement.

There is no reason to believe that the current difficulties won’t be resolved. The question is when and at what cost in the meantime. Already first sale fish markets are showing signs of sluggishness as buyers signal to fishing vessels that they have no confidence in smooth export procedures and therefore will not take the risk of buying.

MMO and Defra

The NFFO has raised the problems faced on the border with both the specialist section within Defra dealing with trade in fisheries products and the MMO. The UK authorities are in contact with the European Commission, who has overall responsibility for international trade over EU borders. The Commission will be alert to the irony that during the negotiations the EU’s claims to automatic access to fish in UK waters was justified by reference to unimpeded access to the EU market. Identifying the specific nature of the problems experienced is a key priority and route to solution.

Catch certificates seem to be being issued without hitches in the UK and those problems that have emerged on the UK side have being quickly resolved. The MMO also reported that licensing of both UK and non-UK vessels to fish between the 12-mile limit and median line had gone smoothly but that more time was required to issue licences for non-UK vessels to fish within the 6-12-mile limits to untangle the legalities contained in the TCA.

Full story courtesy of the NFFO news page.

UK signs agreement with ICES demonstrating commitment to international marine science collaboration

The government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the International Council of the Exploration of the Sea 

The government has set out its commitment to international marine and fisheries science and continued partnership with ICES following signing of agreement.

The government has set out its commitment to international marine and fisheries science by signing an agreement which will ensure continued partnership with the International Council of the Exploration of the Sea (ICES).

ICES is a network of nearly 6,000 scientists from over 700 marine institutes in 20 member countries. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) came into effect on 1 January and sets out how the UK will work with ICES as an independent coastal State. It outlines how UK scientists will contribute to ICES and the advice ICES will provide to the UK on conservation, protection, the sustainable use of the marine environment and sustainable fisheries.

The partnership will assist the UK in meeting its international and domestic commitments to achieving a sustainable marine environment, support vital ecosystems and improve fish stocks which will in turn also benefit our aquaculture and fishing industries.

The UK has a long-running history with ICES as a founding member at its inception in 1902, before becoming a formal contracting party during the ICES Convention of 1964. Throughout our historic collaboration with ICES, UK scientists across Cefas, Marine Scotland Science, AFBI and ICES partner nations, have been key contributors to the development of a greater understanding of marine ecosystems and continue to do so to meet our vision of achieving a clean, healthy and sustainable marine environment.

Fisheries Minister Victoria Prentis said: 

"Now that we are an independent coastal State, we are moving forward with a strong vision as world leaders in marine and fisheries science. UK scientists are key contributors to ICES, and we will continue to play a leading role." 

"We are committed to achieving a clean and healthy marine environment as well as promoting global efforts to protect and enhance marine ecosystems internationally. We must all work together to ensure our seas and oceans are sustainably managed for future generations."

Carl O’Brien CBE, Chief Fisheries Science Adviser at Cefas, said: 

"Science is strengthened through collaboration, and the signing of the MoU provides a basis for continued collaboration between UK scientists across our Devolved Administrations and our peers in ICES with its 20 member nations; embracing the rest of Europe and more widely. We will continue to work together to research and understand the challenges our oceans face and how we can meet them.

The working partnerships between Cefas and other organisations have been developed over more than a century and I look forward to the innovative scientific findings they bring in our efforts towards a sustainable marine environment, for human activity and healthy ecosystems; as well as to the continued sharing of marine data. This information and advice will support the UK in meeting its international and domestic obligations in sustainability." 

The MoU outlines the advice and information ICES will provide to the UK on conservation, protection, the sustainable use of the marine environment, sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, as well as marine data. This information and advice will assist the UK in meeting its international and domestic commitments to achieve a sustainable marine environment, support vital ecosystems and improve fish stocks which will in turn also benefit our aquaculture and fishing industries.

ICES will also provide annual advice on fishing opportunities as well as analysis of the status of our marine ecosystems so that we can manage our fisheries in a way that balances the needs of both our fishermen and our vibrant marine life.

Published 11 January 2021 From: Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, and Victoria Prentis MP