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Brexit continues to fail UK fishing industry

Following the disruption of the UK fishing trade in France last week, Brexit is once again having a negative effect on the industry. Negotiations with Norway over permission for UK fishermen to fish in their waters, and vice-versa, have been abandoned this week after no agreement could be reached.

For UK fishermen, this means that they will not be allowed to access Norway’s sub-Arctic sea, where cod are normally fished for all year round. This loss of trade, which was worth £32 million in 2018, will force many UK fishing companies to seek alternative species or tie up vessels. 

The UK government’s Department for Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) have stated “We put forward a fair offer on access to UK waters and the exchange of fishing quotas, but we have concluded that our positions remain too far apart to reach an agreement this year.”

Can UK fishing companies pick up the trade that Norway now can’t access?

Unfortunately for the UK fishing industry, the main species that Norway fishermen fish from UK waters is blue whiting. Most of this fishing is done in the first few months of the year, which have already passed. 

As UK fishing waters warm up in the arrival of spring, codfish leave UK waters and migrate north, making access to Norway’s sub-Arctic sea essential for the UK cod industry.

Scottish mackerel fishing companies might benefit from the lack of Norwegian boats in UK waters. This may also provide an opportunity for some cod trawlers, but this would not be enough to cover the loss of Norwegian cod fishing. 

How will the scarcity of cod fish affect the UK?

It is expected that Norwegian fishing companies will increase their business to the UK, as cod can still be imported duty free from the EU, but there will not be enough supply for UK fish and chip shops. The absence of UK cod trade means that Norwegian fish will maintain its value despite transport and border delays.

This shortage of cod, combined with freight and customs clearance costs, will result in inflated prices for the next year. With increased costs for older fish, the UK public might move away from cod in favour of a cheaper species.

What is next for Brexit and the fishing industry?

The need to negotiate access to EU countries’ fishing waters follows the UK’s withdrawal from the European Common Fisheries Policy during Brexit. As well as this, Brexit means that the UK now has to negotiate a deal with Greenland, who have a fishing deal with the EU but not the UK. A deal has not yet been made.

2 French fishing unions, the CFTC and the CFTD, are continuing to put pressure on DEFRA to issue access to UK fishing waters for French vessels by Thursday 6th May. This follows a protest in Boulogn-sur-Mer on the 22nd April where UK fish loads were blocked from entering a seafood facility. Tensions are increasing as DEFRA have not moved to issue licenses, responding that only vessels that have met the criteria for access have been approved.

If you need help with importing or exporting fish, or more information on the issues that the UK fishing industry is facing after Brexit, please contact us for more information.

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