Worrying situation is one our fragile fishing industry cannot sustain

Brixham, United Kingdom - May 2, 2012: Fishing boats in the commercial harbor at Brixham UK

£100m Fisheries Fund will be worthless if there is no industry left to support. - Credit: Getty Images

In a previous edition of Torbay Weekly, I wrote about the UK-EU trade deal and the impact on fishing and farming.

While I remain optimistic that the long-term future of both these sectors will thrive in a UK outside of the EU, it is readily apparent that there are several teething issues facing our fishing sector.

With the impact of Covid reducing demand levels, it is readily apparent that more must be done to support this sector.

Over the last two weeks we have seen a flurry of paperwork requirements bury small exporters and the cost associated with them make the very idea of a profit seem remote.

On the EU side, customs agents have been overzealous to the extreme.

Lorries have been delayed due to supposed ‘IT issues’ or for having paperwork submitted in the wrong colour.

Each delay reduces the value of this fresh produce and damages the reputation between supplier and consumer.

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It is a very worrying situation and one that our fragile fishing industry cannot sustain.

In light of this situation it is time that the Government took further and faster action to support this industry.

After all, a vote for Brexit was a vote to create a new way of operating outside of the Brussels bureaucratic machine.

Firstly, compensation must be given to those businesses who have suffered losses from unacceptable delays.

This money should in no way come from the proposed £100m Fisheries Fund.

It must be a new quantum that covers not a fraction, but the whole cost incurred by those businesses adversely impacted.

Secondly, DEFRA needs to assist with the paperwork.

The UK has long prided itself on being one of the easiest countries in the world to set up a business. 

But the idea of businesses going under due to bureaucracy runs counter to this narrative.

DEFRA must create a new sub-body to assist all fishermen and farmers with their export paperwork.

Streamlining the system and providing the know-how will help to alleviate the burden and confusion faced by so many.

Thirdly, the costs attributed to Export Health Certificates, Catch Certificates and Export Certificates are immense.

Businesses must be given reprieve from their costs to be able to ensure their product can reach its export potential.

Global Britain depends on our ability to be able to trade beyond our borders.

Fourthly, ‘a buy-local campaign’ has long been needed. 

Most of the fish we catch we export, and the majority of fish we eat we import.

This needs to change and a new expedited campaign to drive up demand within the UK should be forthcoming. 

The campaign should involve public bodies, celebrity chefs and supermarkets, encouraging local procurement first and highlighting the vibrancy of the species in our waters would be a start.

In time such a move would drive up demand and encourage more to work in the industry.

Finally, if EU customs agents are deliberately holding up British exports then the UK Government should not be afraid to cancel the licences of those European vessels sailing in our waters.

We took back control of our waters for this very reason and their current actions are neither within the letter or spirit of the agreement that was struck on Christmas Eve.

In June, I will be going to sea with one of the Brixham-based trawlers.

I can only hope that we will have resolved these early day problems long before that date.

The announcement of the £100m Fisheries Fund is incredibly welcome as Brixham is likely to be on the receiving end of a significant amount of that money.

But it will be worthless if there is no industry left to support.